SUNDERLAND signed two defenders before yesterday’s transfer deadline, but only Wayne Bridge joined in time to make his debut tonight.
The left-back will go into the squad for tonight’s Premier League visit of Norwich City.
Like Sotirios Kyrgiakos, he has joined on loan until the end of the season.
The Black Cats failed to sign the centre-forward they wanted, although Kyrgiakos has been used there in emergencies.
Manchester City have long wanted Bridge’s wages off their payroll, but at £90,000-a-week have struggled to find a taker.
Sunderland are understood to be contributing just £20,000 a week to the package.
Bridge’s reluctance to move caused Roberto Mancini to suggest the 31-year-old was more interested in playing golf than football.
It was perhaps no surprise, then, when Bridge stressed how thrilled he was at the chance to play again.
He cited the good Stadium of Light vibe as attracting him to the North East.
Bridge said: “I am just excited to be playing football and playing a few games. The club are on the up – the manager has come in and done very well.
“Just coming in and speaking to him, everything has been positive.
“I trained with the lads and they are a great bunch who are feeling positive.”
For the first time in 15 months the Black Cats have a
specialist left-back available. Last season they loaned their only specialist, the out-of-favour George McCartney, to Leeds United.
Kyrgiakos’ arrival was a reaction to the mounting injuries among Sunderland’s centre-backs.
With the move completed after the noon deadline to register for tonight’s game, he will not feature against the Canaries. Neither will the injured Wes Brown (knee), Titus Bramble (calf) and Matt Kilgallon (ankle).
Although Bridge is available, O’Neill will have been closely monitoring his fitness during his first training session at the Academy of Light.
His only first-team appearance this season came in a League Cup tie with Birmingham City in September.
He was twice an unused substitute in the Premier League against Arsenal and Aston Villa.
With City no longer involved in the Premier Reserve League, Bridge has only played three times for the second string this season in the Manchester and Lancashire Senior Cups.
A £12m signing from Chelsea three years ago, he has made just 58 appearances for them and spent the second half of last season on loan at West Ham United. He struggled to impress as the Londoners were relegated.
In keeping with his approach at other clubs, O’Neill has signed two players well used to British football.
In all, Bridge has played 402 club games, while the powerful Kyrgiakos had spells at Rangers and Liverpool.
He made 49 appearances for the Reds – captaining them once in the League Cup – before moving to Wolfsburg in August. He has since fallen out of favour with coach Felix Magath.
O’Neill said: “Sortiros offers a real physical presence, coupled with a wealth of experience, which will be an undoubted benefit to us in the next few months.”
The 6ft 4in centre-back won 61 caps for his country, scoring twice, playing at the last two major tournaments. He retired after the last World Cup.
Bridge has also retired from international football. He quit for “personal reasons” amid controversy over his relationship with John Terry.
The Black Cats had hoped to sign a striker, but were unable to lure Kevin Davies from Bolton Wanderers.
Meanwhile, the North East’s only FA Cup fifth-round tie will be shown live on ITV. The winners of next Wednesday’s replay between Middlesbrough and Sunderland will host Arsenal at 5.15pm on February 18.