Sunderland’s Martin O’Neill targets a goalscorer

DEFENCE PRAISE ... Sunderland Manager Martin O'Neill. Picture by FRANK REID
DEFENCE PRAISE ... Sunderland Manager Martin O'Neill. Picture by FRANK REID
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MARTIN O’Neill has confirmed Sunderland’s priority in the transfer market this summer is a striker capable of significantly boosting the club’s goal tally.

And the Black Cats boss has already ventured into Europe on a scouting mission to cast his eye over a possible target.

Sunderland head into today’s clash against Bolton on the back of their longest lean streak of the season after going more than six-and-a-half hours without finding the net.

No one in Sunderland’s ranks has reached double figures this season, with Seb Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon joint top scorers on eight, while on-loan Arsenal man Nicklas Bendtner can boast seven to his name.

With Bendtner not expected to remain at the Stadium of Light beyond the end of the season, outcast Asamoah Gyan set to complete a permanent switch to the Middle East and fellow strikers Connor Wickham, right, and Ji Dong-won still unproven in the top flight, O’Neill will be left with paper-thin attacking options.

And that is something O’Neill intends to rectify in his summer spending, with Sunderland already linked to the likes of Wolves hitman Steven Fletcher, Aston Villa’s Gabby Agbonlahor and Bolton’s Kevin Davies.

O’Neill said: “Back in December, people were saying that we needed to bring in a goalscorer.

“We were able to disguise that fairly well because over the next few months we were able to get goals from other positions, which was very important to us.

“We need to get some players here scoring double figures to give ourselves any chance at all. We don’t have anybody in that category at the moment and that’s something I will obviously be looking at.

“But that’s not to say we shouldn’t be strengthening in other positions too, if we can.”

Over recent weeks, O’Neill has made no secret of his plans to bolster Sunderland’s squad and is already in the midst of planning potential acquisitions.

He travelled to Europe to scout a possible transfer target a fortnight ago and admits he wants to see players in the flesh before deciding whether to make a move.

“I went abroad to see a Sunday game a couple of weeks ago and I would like to do that kind of thing more often because it gives me a chance to make my own assessment of a player,” said O’Neill.

“Of course I get reports on a player, but there is always the chance that when you see a player yourself, you don’t see what is in the report.

“Any player who comes into the club is going to have my name attached to them, so I would like to make my own assessment.”

He added: “Now would be the time to start giving some serious thought to preparation for next season.

“Every side in the Premier League wants to strengthen – even those that have an abundance of quality players – and we are no different.

“We need a bit more strength so that if two or three players pick up injuries or suspensions, as they inevitably will over the course of a season, their absence is barely noticeable.

“It’s hard to achieve, but it’s something we have to work towards because at the moment it is noticeable.”