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

do.

“He decides what needs to be done, and that’s what makes him so

good.”

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

price possible.

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

month.

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

armoury.

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

one-year deal.

“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

top-class person.

“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.”