SUNDERLAND’S five new signings are united in youthful enthusiasm for the task ahead of them at the Stadium of Light in the coming season.
And that will be music to the ears of chairman Niall Quinn and manager Steve Bruce as they set about revitalising a squad which was already the youngest in the division.
England Under-21 cap Connor Wickham is the youngest and most expensive of the signings at the age of only 18.
But the others are hardly old men in comparison with yesterday’s signings of Craig Gardner (24) and Ji Dong-won (20) adding to the arrivals last week of Seb Larsson and Keiren Westwood (both 26).
Gardner, who signed a three-year contract in a £4.5million deal, could have enjoyed European football this coming season as part of Carling Cup winners’ Birmingham City’s Europa League adventure but described the switch to Sunderland as a “no-brainer”.
The midfielder said: “I spoke to the manager and he said, ‘Craig, once you get here, you will love it’.
“I have been here 24 hours and already I am so impressed with the place, the training ground, the staff.
“It’s just an absolutely brilliant place to be, and hopefully we will settle down really quickly and I will start hitting the back of the net.
“As soon as I found out Sunderland were interested, it was a no-brainer.
“I have heard so much about Steve Bruce and his backroom staff and how good a chairman Niall Quinn is.
“It’s such a massive club and their ambition for this season meets my ambitions. It was too good to turn down.
“We want to be in Europe next season and it’s a great task for us to chase.”
Gardner’s former team-mate at Birmingham City, Seb Larsson, will be lining up alongside him next season after completing his own Bosman move. His contract began today.
He said: “I’m delighted to be here and I’m looking forward to it
“Sunderland are a club going in the right direction – a massive club with huge support.
“I’ve worked with the manager before and that made the decision easier as well.”
Goalkeeper Westwood, the long-term successor to Shay Given in the Republic of Ireland side, knows he has a challenge on his hands to get past the first-team claims of Belgian international Simon Mignolet and Craig Gordon, though the Scot will miss the start of the season because of a long-term injury.
The ex-Coventry City stopper said: “I want to play, but so does everyone else.
“It’ll be a tough contest but that’s what it’s about in Premier League squads.
“Maybe in the Championship they have established number ones with younger backups, but at this level it’s all about competition.”
Meanwhile, 20-year-old striker Ji Dong-won has promised complete commitment to the cause and plans to make the switch from South Korean K-League football to the Premier League standard as swiftly as possible.
The 6ft 1in international said: “I am so satisfied to be able to come to a good club, a nice club in the world’s number one league.
“I hope I could be a member of this team in six months.”
Bruce has high hopes for all his signings, but Ji is his wildcard, with the manager hoping he will eventually enjoy the same level of success as Park Ji-Sung of Manchester United and Lee Chung-Yong of Bolton.
He said: “The boy has been in fantastic form for both club and country and he was one of South Korea’s stand-out performers in the Asian Cup so we are delighted to bring him to Sunderland.”