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O'Neill set for pre-season talks
MARTIN O'NEILL plans to sit down with many of his players individually during Sunderland's week-long trip to South Korea to outline his plans for the summer and next season.
The Black Cats squad are due to fly out to Seoul on Monday ahead of their participation in the Peace Cup next weekend, with transfer business effectively on hold until after that.
O'Neill is keen to make a number of additions to his squad before the start of the new season, but has already admitted there is unlikely to be any progress until after they have returned to the North-East.
Instead he is planning to talk to his players during their time on tour to discuss what direction he wants the team to head - and those he is likely to want with him.
There has already been speculation surrounding the futures of Kieran Richardson, Ahmed Elmohamady and Connor Wickham, but O'Neill is keen to sit down with his players in the coming days to discuss areas of uncertainty.
ONeill said: "I haven't had a chance to speak to the players properly - it will be something I will do in Korea - about where I see them either fitting in or what I think they can do themselves to help them improve themselves and the team.
"That's what I intend to do. This conversation I was going to have with them at the end of last season, but it broke up very, very quickly."
The Sunderland boss is known to be interested in Wolves striker Steven Fletcher, although a fresh move from Borussia Monchengladbach seems to have derailed chances of landing Blackburn's Junior Hoilett.
But O'Neill said: "I genuinely didn't know this, but I've been handed a piece of paper that has 37 players who are going in or going out.
"I looked down the list - certainly players we were linked with - and much to my great, great shame because I like to think I know every player five of them I'd never heard of!"
He would have preferred more new arrivals than free agent Carlos Cuellar by now.
He said: "There is an element of worry. You think you're going along very nicely in the month of July and suddenly the 3rd or 4th of July becomes the 24th of July.
"I think you tend to get a bit edgy, if not agitated, going into the early part of August. But you have to remember you do have until the end of August. Ideally we would have the players in place a little bit before the season starts."
Cuellar was at the Academy of Light again yesterday - on the day his former club, Rangers, were condemned to a season in the Scottish Third Division.
The former Gers defender, who moved to Aston Villa for £8m four years ago, is deeply saddened by what has happened to the Ibrox club.
It was confirmed yesterday that Rangers will drop three divisions following a vote by Scottish Football League chairmen at Hampden on whether Charles Greens newco Rangers should enter the league and at what level.
The Scottish Premier League and SFA chiefs fear the decision could lead to the slow lingering death of football north of the border.
And Cuellar, who was the Scottish footballer of the year in 2008, said: "It is very sad just to see one of the biggest clubs in Europe and in history to be struggling that way.
"It is really hard, more so when you have been a part of it before. I don't understand, with respect to the other clubs, why they voted against Rangers because now the Scottish League will be in big trouble and it is painful for the supporters.
"They have always been behind the club, they were even prepared to get the money to help the club but they weren't allowed to do it. It is a massive support they have and a massive club. It is very sad."