ELLIS Short is ready to bankroll three more high-calibre signings after Sunderland finally brokered a deal for their top target, Wolves striker Steven Fletcher.
Fletcher is due on Wearside today for a medical and to agree terms over a deal understood to be worth £12million – a figure which takes the transfer close to Sunderland’s record deal, which was for Asamoah Gyan.
Black Country sources claimed the deal was worth £14million and included a sell-on clause.
However, it is understood Sunderland have not budged from their most recent offer, agreeing only to changes in the structure of the deal.
The price will officially be recorded as undisclosed but what is certain is it is a major show of support from Short, who has proved he is prepared to back his manager with serious funds in an effort to turn the club into top-eight contenders.
Sunderland expect to confirm the signing of Fletcher today.
The 25-year-old will be considered for a striking role against Reading on Saturday – although he is short on match fitness after a pre-season interrupted by a transfer request at the start of this month.
He has played only one half of football this summer and picked up an ankle knock, although that was not serious enough to prevent him training in the run-up to Wolves’ game against Barnsley on Tuesday.
O’Neill will address the media today and is sure to express his delight at securing a deal for a player who was always at the top of his wish list.
As revealed by The Journal back in May, the player’s agent was on Wearside for talks at the start of the summer – and Sunderland had discreetly asked for character references from Wolves officials before then.
O’Neill knows there will be questions over the size of the fee, but believes there is enough potential in Fletcher for him to be the answer to the goalscoring problems which have blighted the club since they sold Darren Bent to Aston Villa.
As well as being good in the air, he has impressive technique and his movement in the box is another asset for a player who hit double figures for Wolves last year despite the fact they ended up being relegated from the Premier League.
Sunderland will now look to add a right-back, a left-back and a creative midfielder – and will also move to bring in another striker if Fraizer Campbell leaves.
Croatia left-back Ivan Strinic – who plays for Ukrainian side Dnipro – is a priority defensive target, while United States front man Clint Dempsey emerged as a shock target – although the 29-year-old is believed to prefer a move to Liverpool.
The most ambitious of Sunderland’s targets is Manchester City’s former Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson, and the club are encouraged that he is yet to count out a move to Wearside.
Although other potential suitors, including Everton and West Ham, have been told he is not interested in moving there, Sunderland remain an option for the England winger.
The 25-year-old Sunderland-born player is expected to make a decision on his future after the weekend, with Europa League participants Liverpool and Tottenham both understood to be interested.