LOUIS Saha believes Sunderland fans can expect to see a more free-flowing team this season.
Striker Saha joined the Black Cats in August, along with £12m Scotland outcast Steven Fletcher. And with Adam Johnson bringing a greater goal threat from midfield, the Frenchman feels the side should be more entertaining to watch this term.
Sunderland scored 45 goals in 38 Premier League games last season.
They opened this one with a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, but have found the net twice in each of the two games since the arrival of Johnson and Fletcher.
“I think we’ve got some good strikers and if we get a good spirit and a good set-up, we can score goals,” said Saha.
“It’s not only the strikers that can score goals. We’ve got quality in the side and it’s an enjoyable way to play football. It’s great to play here.
“In his mind he (manager Martin O’Neill) can see clearly he wants nice football with the players enjoying themselves.
“We have players like Lee Cattermole to make sure the balance is right defensively and going forward.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve got a good team and we can do good things.”
While Johnson created two goals on his Sunderland debut, against Morecambe in the League Cup, Fletcher netted twice in his first league game for the club, last week’s 2-2 draw at Swansea.
Many have questioned Fletcher’s £12m transfer fee, but in his interview with the club’s official website, Saha expressed great faith in the former Burnley and Wolverhampton Wanderers forward.
“I have respect for him, he’s a great talent and I’m not surprised at all,” he said of the Scot’s
performance at the Liberty Stadium.
“Having seen his first two games, I think you can expect even more from him.
“He’s a good prospect and I don’t think it’s the last time we will be talking about him.”
As a left-footer who primarily plays on the right, Johnson showed at Middlesbrough and Manchester City he is arguably even more adept at scoring goals than making them.
Fletcher has been working hard on his match-fitness having effectively gone without a pre-season while he haggled over his future with Wolves. A clash of personalities with manager Craig Levein means he has not been considered for Scotland’s matches at home to Serbia and Macedonia. “He indicated to me he didn’t want to play international football and he has done nothing to say otherwise since,” said an exasperated Levein when asked about it again yesterday.
“I’ve left the door open for a year – he made no attempt to get back into the squad.”
The bolstering of Sunderland’s forward ranks could lead to some of those forced down the pecking order being loaned out for experience.
Burnley are thought to be considering a move for Connor Wickham, but only if Sunderland lower their demand for clubs to pay three-quarters of the 19-year-old’s reported £25,000 wages. Wickham’s previous club Ipswich Town expressed an interest, but were scared off by the cost.
Fraizer Campbell is interesting hometown club Huddersfield Town and Hull City, where he enjoyed the most productive spell of his career while on loan from Manchester United.
Campbell won his first England cap in February, but has not scored since. The Tigers are managed by Steve Bruce, who brought him to the Stadium of Light.
James McClean will not make his first competitive start for the Republic of Ireland in Kazakhstan tonight.
Giovanni Trapattoni had dropped heavy hints he could feature in a front three, but has again overlooked a player who in the eyes of most Irish supporters was criminally under-used at Euro 2012.
“For everyone asking, no I am not sick!” McClean told his Twitter followers yesterday. “(I am) 100%fit – (it is) just (the) manager’s decision.”