Gustavo Poyet insists Sunderland have cash to spend in the January transfer window, but refused to promise they will keep hold of all their star players next month.
Poyet has denied reports late last week that director of football Roberto De Fanti will only be allowed to sign free transfers and loan players with the risk of relegation hanging over the club.
But he stopped short of rejecting claims that Steven Fletcher could be sold, saying only that anyone interested should be up front about it.
“Yes, I have money to spend,” said Poyet, who confirmed left-back Marcos Alonso will be the first arrival, on loan from Fiorentina, next month. “I was surprised at what’s been said.
“All the teams at the bottom want to spend money, we already know that. We know what we are, what we’re trying to achieve and the players we want to get.
“We’ll try to make offers. To make an offer you need money.
“Do I have £100m to spend? No. Is there a number? No. But there are players and positions we’d like to strengthen.
“If I say how many we need it would probably be at least three or four but it’s so unpredictable either way. I’m just making sure we’re ready and we’ve got options if anything happens but initially I’d say around four.
“It’s not about just how much money we have available – it’s about the player looking at us as a club and seeing where we’re going to be in six months. The best thing for us is to be winning and out of the relegation places and that should make it a little easier to attract players.
“A few weeks ago people were looking at our situation and thinking it was impossible but now we’re there in with a chance.”
Scotland striker Fletcher, who goes into tomorrow’s home game with Aston Villa having scored his first goal in 12 games at Cardiff City on Saturday, has been linked with Hull City among others.
Poyet’s message to anyone interested in his players is simple – make a bid.
“We haven’t had any offer for any players,” he insisted.
“I remember once (when manager of Brighton and Hove Albion) I got the call from an agent asking if a player was available and I went mad. I don’t like that. If I say ‘yes’ that means he’ll go and tell the player I don’t want him. I’ve been telling every agent that calls me or Roberto – if you want a player, make an offer.
“I like to be honest with the players. How can I be honest with the players and then tell people if you make an offer for him we’ll let him go?
“I don’t go the other way, either, and say nobody’s for sale. I would be lying to you. If somebody came in for one of the best players in the club and gave me £50m for them, they’re gone.
“How many times do you see people saying, ‘He’s not for sale, he’s not for sale’ and then he’s gone?”
Fletcher has not started consecutive games this month, but Poyet acknowledged finding an effective centre-forward is key to Sunderland’s survival chances, and the hope must now be that the confidence boost of scoring returns him to that.
“For strikers it’s all about scoring,” Poyet commented. “He had one chance against Everton and didn’t score but he took his chance against Cardiff.
“His position on the pitch is key to the team. You talk about the spine but nowadays everybody’s looking for the striker who will score you 20 goals in a season. They’re the most expensive ones to buy and they often earn the most.
“He (Fletcher) is important for us and we have to make sure we get a few more chances to him. We need to put him in goalscoring positions but it’s about the balance of the team.”
Sunderland are hoping to have central defender John O’Shea back tomorrow. He picked up a shoulder injury when team-mate Phil Bardsley landed on him against Norwich City, and has missed the last two games.
“It’s going to be close, it’s not an easy one,” Poyet said. “Fabio (Borini) came back on Monday (having been substituted through illness at Cardiff), he looks alright. We’re just doing the last few checks to see he’s okay and it’s nothing serious. It’s 50-50. We need to wait and see.”