MARTIN O’NEILL is confident Sunderland will wrap up a deal for James McFadden – almost a decade after he first tried to sign the Scottish forward.
Free agent McFadden has spent the past three weeks training at the Academy of Light after being released by Everton at the end of last season and is in the process of finalising talks over a permanent stay on Wearside.
The move has been complicated by McFadden’s agent Rob Segal travelling to America, but that is not expected to scupper the move, with the ex-Birmingham City man understandably keen to remain in the Premier League.
O’Neill, who watched McFadden in a training game at Middlesbrough yesterday afternoon, first became a fan of the 29-year-old when he was in charge at Celtic and the Scotland international was shining for Motherwell.
McFadden (left) ultimately opted to join Everton in 2003, but O’Neill doesn’t foresee any problems in landing his third Bosman deal of the season after already bringing Louis Saha and Carlos Cuellar to Wearside.
O’Neill told the Echo: “He was at Motherwell as a kid and I had a real, genuine interest.
“He used to cause us plenty of problems in the games he played.
“I definitely had an interest in him. I certainly phoned Motherwell about him.
“James is keen to come here, absolutely.
“His agent is actually in America at this moment. I spoke to him when he was just heading out there.
“I’m not trying to use that as an excuse. I said to James I was hoping to get it resolved last weekend, but it’s just hung on and I’d hope to get something sorted in the next few days.”
The chief concern with McFadden is his fitness after cruciate knee ligament damage ruined the end of his three-year spell at Birmingham before he returned to Everton last season.
But O’Neill has been heartened by the signs on the training field and believes McFadden can offer competition to creative trio James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon and Adam Johnson.
“A fit, proper and tuned-in McFadden could help us,” added O’Neill.
“He said to me on Wednesday that he’s getting fitter every day.
“He played in the game yesterday. That won’t be a determining factor as to whether he comes here, but it will help him. I’m hoping that he can do something for us.
“He would be back-up to the two lads out wide and Sessegnon as well, as obviously it will be hard for them to get through the whole season.”