MARTIN O’Neill is hopeful of signing at least one new Sunderland striker this week, but will be “worried” if he cannot.
The Black Cats are set to lose five forwards in this transfer window, and as yet none have arrived.
Manager O’Neill is confident that will be put right before Thursday’s 11pm deadline, even with the future of Danny Graham unclear.
The 27-year-old was named in Swansea City’s squad to play at the Stadium of Light tonight, but has since asked to leave.
Fraizer Campbell has joined Cardiff City, Ji Dong-won was loaned to Augsburg, Louis Saha and James McFadden have been released and Hearts could soon take Ryan Noble on loan.
“I think we can get someone else in,” O’Neill commented ahead of tonight’s Premier League visit of Swansea City.
“If it didn’t materialise I’d be somewhat disappointed. I’d be worried because if anything happened to (Steven) Fletcher it could cause us a problem. Until someone’s signed up I genuinely don’t think you can ever think something’s close.”
Sunderland are one of those interested in Graham – Norwich City and Stoke City are others – who favours a return to his native North East. But with Swansea unable to sign another striker thus far, manager Michael Laudrup suggested the 27-year-old may stay.
“Maybe nothing will happen“ he said. “There have been a lot of questions about Danny but I can only say Danny is here and we want him to stay.
“If he comes to me and he wants to leave, and we have a very, very good offer, then we have to look into it, otherwise it could easily happen we will have the same squad on February 1 as we do now.”
The caveat makes it sound more like an attempt at hard bargaining, and came before Graham upped the ante last night by asking for a move.
O’Neill, who denied interest in utility player Paul Scharner after quotes to the contrary from the Austrian’s agent, revealed he felt railroaded into Campbell’s sale by some indiscrete social networking by Matt Kilgallon.
The centre-back posted a farewell Instagram message before Campbell’s £600,000 move.
“We said we would prefer him not to go until we got someone else in and then Matthew Kilgallon tweets he is going to Cardiff,” explained O’Neill. “I didn’t want somebody leaving until we had someone in but the news had broken and it was going to be hard to keep the player.”
McFadden’s contract expired last week, although if still a free agent by Friday he could rejoin outside of the window.
O’Neill also revealed indirect Hearts contact about 21-year-old Noble, who was loaned to League One Hartlepool United this season and last.
Hearts’ financial problems mean they are operating under strict conditions, with signings limited to one in, one out. Additions must be under-21 players on equal or less pay to their predecessors. Three have left Tynecastle this month, replaced by two loanees.
So far the approach has only come through Noble’s agent, but the youngster plays no part in O’Neill’s plans.
Talking generally about young players O’Neill said: “When I was in Scotland we had a rule where the bench went from five to seven people but you had to include under-21 players and I was always dead against it. It was passed by people who I’m not sure had given it proper thought.
“Some players were now on bench who felt the next step was the first team and it wasn’t materialising. Two years on they hadn’t improved and suddenly they weren’t anything. You have to earn the right to be in the side.”
Sunderland went into their mini-break hoping Danny Rose, Carlos Cuellar and Lee Cattermole would recover from injury to face the Swans, but that now seems unlikely. Cattermole has had an injection in his troublesome knee.