SUNDERLAND’S summer transfer activity is set to be cranked up – with the Boss back in town!
Black Cats manager Martin O’Neill returned to his desk at the Stadium of Light this week after a holiday, ready to push forward with plans to re-shape his squad.
The Irishman and Sunderland owner Ellis Short took in the Bruce Springsteen performance at the Stadium of Light last night and the pair will now plot how to fill the stadium again – with a winning football team.
O’Neill’s break followed an intensive six-month period in which he saving the floundering Black Cats from the danger of relegation.
And, refreshed from the holiday, he will now look to step up efforts to bring in new players ahead of the new season in which a top 10 finish has been again targeted by the club.
The manager warned at the end of last season that he did not expect an immediate influx of players, saying that the only possible early arrivals would be those available on Bosman free transfers.
But so far there have been no new signings at the Stadium of Light and the signs are that none will come through the door before the end of this month.
All the changes at Sunderland so far have been departures, with nine players released including former British record goalkeeper signing Craig Gordon as well as second string stalwarts Trevor Carson, Jordan Cook and Oumare Tounkara.
Others could follow in the next few days – striker Asamoah Gyan hoping to finalise a move to UAE side Al-Ain in the next few days while unwanted defender Marcos Angeleri is looking to engineer a move back to South America with either Independiente or Estudiantes.
O’Neill will be more concerned over speculation surrounding Player of the Season Stephane Sesssegnon but will remain hopeful the Benin international will still be at the Stadium of Light for next season.
The manager will have to look at more potential departures – but this time from his backroom staff, with question marks over the Sunderland futures of Reserve team coach Keith Bertschin, his assistant Stephen Clemence and chief scout Pop Robson.
All three are wanted by former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce to help him in his new position as Hull City manager, with the suggestion being that Bertschin and Clemence likely to go while Robson is expected to stay.
One decision O’Neill can look to make immediately will be whether or not he follows up on the ‘come and get me’ message sent by Louis Saha yesterday.
The former Fulham, Manchester United and Everton striker – who was on loan at Spurs last season – is now a free agent and made a point of mentioning the Black Cats as a possible destination for next season and O’Neill will have to weigh up whether or not the 33-year-old French striker would be a worthwhile acquisition.
There still remains the option of bringing in Aston Villa’s out-of-contract defender Carlos Cuellar, though Sunderland have made no contact with the player’s agent. And Blackburn Rovers’ Junior Hoilett remains very much on the radar as the young Canadian plans his next move.
The Black Cats have also been strongly linked with Republic of Ireland winger Aiden McGeady, Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor and Wolves forward Steven Fletcher, while West Brom’s Irish international Keith Andrews, available on a Bosman, and Senegal striker Ibrahima Balde were both mentioned on the rumour mill today.
But even though the Sunderland manager is now back behind his desk full-time, fans are likely to have to wait for a few more weeks before welcoming new faces.
The manager appreciates their eagerness to see new arrivals but hopes they will be patient as he plots his moves in his first significant transfer window with the club.
“We will all come back ready and refreshed for pre-season,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it and I’m hoping we can do something. I think the supporters have got a fair idea of what we need to try and build the team.”