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Gardner hoping for transfer boost on Wearside
CRAIG GARDNER thinks Sunderland are in desperate need of a couple of additions this month to give manager Martin O'Neill the extra options in the Premier League his team badly needs.
Nine of the team that started the defeat at Liverpool on Wednesday played in Sunderland's three previous festive fixtures - and it showed.
After a bright enough start at Anfield the Black Cats struggled to keep up with a resurgent Reds and left O'Neill contemplating his next move on the transfer front.
The Sunderland boss has shown a reluctance to throw in the likes of David Vaughan, Connor Wickham and Titus Bramble and the failure to mix it up left his team looking fatigued on Merseyside.
The effects of playing largely the same team in four matches inside 12 days was there for all to see and now O'Neill is on the look out for reinforcements.
New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill is one of the most likely to arrive, while Sunderland have also been linked with Paris St Germain forward Guillaume Hoarau, Liverpool's Stewart Downing and Manchester City's Joleon Lescott.
O'Neill has been coy on the identity of specific targets, but there is an admission among his playing staff that new faces are required - even more so with David Meyler on the verge of a £1.5m switch to Hull City.
"It's been a tough Christmas period for us, after winning at Southampton to then play Manchester City, Tottenham and then Liverpool away has been really tough in 12 days," said Gardner.
"But we can't dwell on the fact we got beat and we have got to go again. There are a lot of positives and the window is open now so maybe the manager will be trying to add to the squad, bring in some extra strength in depth, that would be great if he could.
"We need to pick ourselves up regardless of what happens this month. I don't know anything about what the manager intends in the transfer market. None of the players do. That's up to the gaffer.
"But he knows what he is doing, he has been in this position before, and is a top class manager. We all trust him and we are all behind him."
Despite a campaign littered with defeats so far, one of the important things has been the constant claim from manager and players that the dressing room has remained a strong unit.
And Gardner said: "We have got quite a small squad. With the closeness of the squad and the atmosphere in the changing room you would think there were hundreds of us in there, playing regularly and getting a rest. Everyone gets on with everybody.
"We have all got each other's backs on the pitch as well. From the outside we have got a small squad but we all get on with each other and we all stick together."
That spirit will have been tested at Anfield on Wednesday, when Sunderland were given the runaround by a Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool team just days after the defeat to Tottenham at the Stadium of Light.
But Gardner said: "The lads could have folded but we stuck in there. It could have been six or seven and we never let it get to that level."
Sunderland now have a break from trying to keep away from relegation trouble with a trip to Bolton in the third round of the FA Cup tomorrow.
Defender John O'Shea will be given extra time to recover from hamstring trouble, while O'Neill then hopes to have added a new face before the Premier League visit of West Ham on January 12.
The Premier League might be the priority, but Gardner feels the experience of reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last season has made the players hungry for more in the competition.
He said: "The FA Cup is massive. It can get your confidence up if you get a good run going. It gets the fans buzzing and gets the whole place buzzing if you get in the next round. That's what we want to do because we want to get as far as we can in the competition.
"The gaffer came in last year and the whole place was buzzing with what we did in the FA Cup. We want to get that back and we are showing signs, especially at home, of improving."