THE transfer window will come sooner than Martin O’Neill would like, with Sunderland’s new manager admitting he would prefer to spend the rest of the season assessing the players he has inherited.
But the Black Cats boss should soon have another player to run the rule over after the club’s medical team handed over Fraizer Campbell.
While opposite number Neil Warnock was speaking on Wednesday of how he would love new players at Queens Park Rangers ready for their January 2 match with Norwich City, O’Neill is taking the opposite approach.
Since replacing Steve Bruce as manager earlier this month, he has consistently maintained no conversations have taken place about what funds will be available in the transfer window, which opens a week tomorrow.
If it is true, owner Ellis Short has not broached the subject either, that would seem to imply that little or none.
It has not stopped a raft of speculation about who he is looking to bring to Wearside, and O’Neill joked he will take it as a sign of progress when the calibre of player linked increases.
“I’ve not specifically pushed for anything or asked about anything,” he insisted. “That doesn’t mean you can’t keep an eye on things. It’d be foolish if you weren’t looking to see what might be out there.
“We are going to be linked in the not-too distant future with players and we’ve been linked with some pretty good players, some pretty average players and some pretty abominable players.
“I just want us to keep being linked with the pretty good players. If you get some injuries and occasionally long-term injuries then of course that presents a problem, but I’ll play that by ear.
“In an ideal world I would love to know the strengths and weaknesses of the team if at all possible. I know you frown upon saying everyone has a clean slate and I have tended not to make that many changes in team I have inherited.
“Even after three games I have a better idea of the players who have played, but not of the players who have not played yet.
“We have to win games so it’s hard to put three new faces and just lose a game for the sake of trying to experiment but I am hoping players will get their chance.
“Conversely some players who were out of the side before might feel the situation has not changed and might feel their opportunities are limited and they may get frustrated. But I will deal with that.”
Predecessor Bruce’s reign was dogged by injuries, but O’Neill seems to be getting some of the luck he was owed.
Striker Campbell, who twice ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments, is working his way back to match-fitness after coming through a behind-closed-doors friendly yesterday.
“He is doing very well,” O’Neill commented. “He played yesterday morning again for about 75 minutes and the medical team have said there’s not much more they can do. He doesn’t seem to be having any reactionary problems, so that’s very encouraging.”
Connor Wickham is also making progress after injury his knee for the second time in just over a month.
The manager revealed: “Connor went down to see the specialist in London and he is pretty encouraged. He will probably not available for this week but the swelling is going down, the fluid is lessening and he is quite hopeful he should be okay.”
While the news on Campbell and Wickham has been positive, the opposite is true of Michael Turner, who suffered the latest in a frustrating series of knee injuries in Bruce’s final game.
“Michael is not expected to be fit until the middle of January at the earliest,” O’Neill confirmed yesterday.