MARTIN O'Neill often leaves his transfer business to the very last minute. Rarely, if ever, does he leave anything to chance when it comes to making signings.
At least not in his own mind. This is a man who knows exactly what he wants when it comes to buying players for all his football clubs. That tried and tested philosophy is unlikely to change over what promises to be a busy summer at Sunderland.
You can bet Ellis Short’s last dollar that any defender who arrives on Wearside will be the size of a country house with the ability to head a football further than some folk go on holiday.
All midfielders will be left in no doubt about their defensive responsibilities. He doesn’t go in for those playmaker types who are good with the ball at their feet, but utterly useless without it.
There will be at least one target-man, someone prepared to batter and be battered by defenders.
A Martin O’Neill player is strong in both a mental and physical sense. They know how to play football and how to look after themselves if things get lively out on the pitch.
There will be no shrinking violets and, now this is important, the manager will not care whether they are seen as bad influences on a dressing room or whether they have had injury problems in their past.
Because he is the boss and what he says goes, plus he revels in the challenge of getting through to troublesome characters such as Steve Claridge and Craig Bellamy, who nobody else would touch with a barge pole.
But what the Sunderland manager really, really likes is a footballer with everything to prove. His Leicester City side were full of misfits whose careers had stalled.
This is where he excels; getting the best out of people that many in football had discarded.
Tony Cottee is a prime example. The then-32-year-old had spent a year in Malaysian football when O’Neill shelled out £500,000 on him in 1997. “I was into my thirties and found myself coming back to England with plenty to prove having been written off by just about everyone,” Cottee told The Journal. “But he likes that sort and my age was never an issue with him. Martin is by the far the best I ever worked with in terms of man-management. He will see something in a player that nobody else can and get the best from them. It’s actually remarkable.
“Brian Clough is his hero and Martin has followed his example in that he won’t spend £20m on one player, rather he will bring in Bosmans, or guys for a what these days will be small-ish fees and make them into stars.
“At Leicester, he got Robbie Savage and Neil Lennon from Crewe. Steve Guppy came from Wycombe Wanderers and Muzzy Izzet was in Chelsea’s reserves.
“They all went on to play international football.
“He would rather get a hungry player, someone who has maybe had a bad experience and lost his way a bit, rather than some big name who would be seen as a big star.
“Chris Sutton went up to Celtic after a dreadful year at Chelsea and became a legend up there. He’ll do the same at Sunderland, mark my words.
“He likes strong players who have a bit of craft in them. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, will be allowed to give anything than 100% for Sunderland. He will quickly weed out anyone who is happy to coast.
“Martin’s record in the transfer record has been superb at all his clubs. He has this incredible ability to spot something in a player that perhaps they don’t see themselves, and make them into top class footballers.”