Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DURHAM TIMES to 80360 or email us
O'Neill hopeful of making breakthrough
MARTIN O'NEILL is confident of making a transfer breakthrough for Sunderland after a quiet summer so far.
Carlos Cuellar has been O'Neill's only signing of the close season, and while the Black Cats boss has confirmed he has placed bids for players - with Steven Fletcher understood to be one of those - he expects the floodgates to open in the next few weeks.
Sunderland's first game of the season is 16 days away, at Arsenal, and O'Neill would ideally like some new blood in before that date.
"I think that it may take an upturn in the not too distant future," said O'Neill. "Football clubs would have a look at last season and think where they can improve. There's a group of us in that position.
"There may be something in waiting for the big clubs to make a move. I heard that Roberto Mancini is looking at five or six to strengthen. If Man City are in that position, God help the rest of us. "There will be plenty of movement this month."
Sunderland were understood to have tabled a £10million bid for Wolves striker Fletcher, and while O'Neill would not confirm or deny that, he was keen to stress that any signings in attack would not necessarily result in players such as Connor Wickham going out on loan.
He said: "I can't obviously mention particular players, but we're definitely in the market to improve the squad. I think it's pretty obvious where we're looking to strengthen, and of course we're going to be linked with a lot of players.
"I don't think it's right of me to publicise what we're trying to do at this minute. We have made a number of bids for a number of players right now, and we're still waiting to hear back.
"There's an almost inevitable link that if I'm looking for an experienced centre-forward that the younger players would go out on loan. I suppose that follows, but I never said that at all.
"There is a possibility of players going out on loan. I have had umpteen calls about players going out on loan and I sometimes have to smile at myself, as if that's our job here, to let players out on loan.
"The season hadn't ended when I had three calls from three clubs asking about players going out on loan next season. Nobody had even gone on holiday at this time.
"Eventually I'll have a look at what is best for the football club and obviously what is best for the players. At this minute my idea would be try to get players into the football club, not send them out."
O'Neill explained that transfer deals are a lot more complicated than they used to, and that the unveiling of a player is just the tip of the iceberg of a long process.
"You have to try and satisfy so many people," he said.
"Suddenly there's agents involved, so it is more complicated. A long time ago, a manager called up another manager and a player went whether he wanted to or not, but this is not the case anymore.
"We've realised that over the last five, six, seven years or so. It is more difficult to complete a transfer.
"There always seem to be sagas involved now and I don't think that this particular pre-season will be any different."
Sunderland travel to Helsingborgs this weekend with their international players back from their extended break.
However, Stephane Sessegnon and Ahmed Elmohamady will not travel to Sweden as they would have to apply for visas, which would result in a day out of training. Instead, the pair will continue to train at the Academy of Light and will be considered for Wednesday's trip to Derby County.
O'Neill is pleased with the progress made in pre-season, even if the results have not been entirely pleasing, including losing at Hartlepool last Friday.
"I tend not to get too concerned about pre-season, particularly if I know the players," he said.
"I like it low-key, results are never that important but you still want to be competing, you still want to win some games. We did the Korean trip which had lots of benefits and one or two pitfalls as well, overall an enjoyable trip.
"What I hope to see in the next couple of matches is an improvement in performance, trying to gel a little bit, trying new things, players taking up different positions, but it's now about building up to the Helsingborgs game, Derby County and Leicester City for the start of the season.''