NIALL Quinn says that Sunderland’s desire to make an “impact signing” this summer will not distract Steve Bruce from tapping up his extensive network of foreign contacts.
The Black Cats have opened negotiations for England strikers Darren Bent and Peter Crouch over the past week as well as making inquiries about Republic of Ireland defender Richard Dunne – although free agent Jermaine Pennant last night signed for Real Zaragoza.
Sunderland have also made an approach to England under-21 striker Frazier Campbell as Steve Bruce looks to add firepower after the departure of Djibril Cisse.
Those are the kind of players that Quinn believes are “up a notch” from the targets that they were looking at last summer, but the desire for British-based signings will not stop Bruce from importing from the South and Central American regions.
Sunderland have already made a three-year contract offer to Paraguay defender Paulo Da Silva, but face competition from Tottenham – who are also rivaling them in the chase for Manchester City stopper Dunne.
And there will be more to follow, with Chile striker Humberto Suaza another striker linked with a switch to the Stadium of Light.
Efforts to bring in new players have been helped by the returns
from holiday of both Bruce and new head of recruitment Ricky Sbragia, who will oversee the efforts of Sunderland’s expanded network of scouts.
And the start of pre-season training, which began yesterday after a day of medical assessments on Wednesday, has also prompted fresh enthusiasm from the Black Cats chairman.
He has been working closely with Bruce over the summer and believes that the manager can be trusted in the transfer market.
“Thanks to Ellis Short’s money we can go for a home-based player further up the list than in the past but we’re not going to let go of the contacts he’s made,” Quinn said. “We’ve imported some of the systems that he’s used up until now and they are working really well.
“There’s certainly a great excitement around the place and, after all the talking we have been doing for the last six weeks, it’s all now down to the action. The players coming back is a big thing. The place is a hive of activity.”
As well as significant new arrivals, Sunderland are preparing the way for surprising departures.
Dean Whitehead has been told he can leave the Stadium of Light and will talk terms with Ipswich over the next few days, while Daryl Murphy is also set to discuss a reunion with Roy Keane.
However The Journal understands there is nothing in reports linking Blackburn Rovers with Kenwyne Jones, and speculation surrounding the future of Danny Collins and Phil Bardsley appears premature.
Collins certainly signaled his desire to stay at Sunderland after returning for pre-season training yesterday.
“Everyone is now fighting from scratch for a place in the first team at the start of the season,” he said.
“How much he knows about us, you just don’t know. He’ll obviously be wanting to bring in his own players so we’ve all got to work hard and show him we’re ready.”
Bruce hopes to have those new signings in before the start of the pre-season campaign next week as he looks to build a squad capable of making an impact in the top half of the top flight.
Reflecting on the aims of the season, Quinn said he wants Sunderland’s Premier League rivals to recognise that the Black Cats are a force to be reckoned with.
“You try not to set targets because you usually fall down if you do,” he said.
“We want to see last-minute goals again. We need to get our ‘never say die’ attitude back. In general we need to up the tempo a bit and we need people to say we’re back.
“It would be wrong even to stand still this season. We have got to make this an established Premier League club.”