Sunderland boss keeping eye on free market

LOAN DEALS ... Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill.
LOAN DEALS ... Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill.
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MARTIN O’Neill will consider looking at free agents before the transfer window re-opens in the New Year – should injuries strike.

The Sunderland boss brought in five new signings over the summer with Adam Johnson, Steven Fletcher, Carlos Cuellar, Louis Saha and on-loan Spurs man Danny Rose all arriving at the Stadium of Light to strengthen the Black Cats’ starting XI.

But twice that number of first-teamers have departed, and O’Neill appreciates he is working with a relatively small squad and may yet need more bodies to cope with the injuries and suspensions that are bound to crop up.

Even though the transfer window closed at the end of August and does not reopen until January 1, clubs can sign free agents at any stage of the season.

Other clubs have already taken advantage of the rule, with Stoke City signing Michael Owen, Fulham adding Greek midfielder Giorgos Karagounis and Swansea bringing in out-of-contract Dutch defender Dwight Tiendalli, since the window closed.

And O’Neill has not ruled out following their example in the months ahead should the need arise and the right signing present itself.

“I think you’d have to have a look at it and see what is out there,” he said.

“I know Michael Owen has gone to Stoke and Karagounis has moved and Swansea have signed the left-back from Holland. I think you have to be flexible in these situations.

“In fairness, I don’t think Chelsea or Manchester United will be looking at these things, but it’s not something I could rule out.

“If the gap between the windows wasn’t so long – let’s say there was another window that opened at the end of October – then I’d be sitting here pretty well satisfied.

“But January is a long time in coming, and injuries and suspensions between now and then is your major concern.

“I’m not the only one voicing that, as a manager.

“So looking at out-of-contract player is not something I would rule out.”

O’Neill is pleased with his summer transfer dealings, but admits that no manager is ever truly satisfied.

He said: “I was delighted with the players we have got in - Johnson, Fletcher, Cuellar, Saha and Rose.

“Johnson is someone who was wanted by a number of clubs so I was very pleased to get him. He has an end product to his game and can go past players, which will excite the crowd.

“And Fletcher is someone who will score goals and go on to prove he is a good acquisition.

“But, as always in any transfer window, you would like to do more. When you reach September 1, though, that’s all you can do – other than looking at players who are out of contract.

“We’ll see, but for now what we have, we have.”