Gardner: Boss will land targets
The Black Cats have to date added only free agent Carlos Cuellar
and 34-year-old striker Louis Saha to their squad since the end of
last season with just 10 days to go until the deadline.
However, amid a whirlwind of speculation over who might end up
at the Stadium of Light and with O’Neill having proclaimed himself
ready to launch a late flurry of activity, Gardner is confident his
former Aston Villa manager will get the men he wants.
He told the Sunderland Echo: “I’ve worked with the gaffer before
and he’s not a genius for no reason.
“He’s not forced to buy players. He hasn’t won medals and been
as successful as he is by rushing in and people telling him what to
“He decides what needs to be done, and that’s what makes him so
O’Neill, with the backing of owner and chairman Ellis Short, has
made a number of approaches for big-name players, and while
progress has been made, he is still awaiting decisive breakthroughs
on several fronts.
His pursuit of Wolves striker Steven Fletcher has been
well-documented with the Black County club holding out for the best
Sunderland are understood to have offered a deal amounting to
?13million which is yet to be accepted, although there is a growing
feeling on Wearside that the Midlands’ stance is gradually
softening and that a deal could be done before the end of the
Their interest in Manchester City midfielder Adam Johnson is
genuine and ongoing, but while the fact that the England
international has north-east roots is in their favour, they face
competition from clubs with higher profiles.
O’Neill, however, has back-up plans as well as additional
targets in other areas of the field, and consequently has seen
himself linked with a growing number of players, with reports on
Tuesday alone presenting a list of names – some more realistic than
others – which extended into double figures.
But there is little doubt that his main focus, as it has been
all summer, remains on attacking recruits following the loss of
Asamoah Gyan and Nicklas Bendtner from an already depleted
Fletcher and Johnson would certainly fit the bill, and while the
dream scenario would see both arrive, there is ground still to be
covered and a succession of obstacles in O’Neill’s path.
In the meantime, Gardner is convinced that the Ulsterman has
already strengthened his hand in the striking department with the
capture of Saha, who made his Barclays Premier League debut for the
club as a substitute in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Arsenal, on a
“When Louis came on, I thought he was unbelievable. He held the
ball up, was strong and that’s what we needed,” he said.
“Even in the changing room, it helps when you see someone who
has been at Manchester United, and he’s a top-class player and
“He talks to you, tells you and encourages you, and that’s what
you need. If we can get a few more players in to go with his
experience, that would be great.”