N’Diaye tops urgent list for Sunderland

The Northern Echo: HIGH RISER: Connor Wickham rises against Sam Ricketts at the Reebok Stadium HIGH RISER: Connor Wickham rises against Sam Ricketts at the Reebok Stadium

SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill admits there is a heightened need to make signings as quickly as possible after Danny Rose and Carlos Cuellar both sustained potentially long-term injuries in Saturday’s FA Cup thirdround draw with Bolton.

Second-half strikes from Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner kept Sunderland’s cup hopes alive as they overhauled a two-goal deficit to secure a replay that is provisionally scheduled for a week tomorrow.

However, the draw came at a cost with Rose and Cuellar both hobbling off with hamstring injuries that will be assessed today.

Prior to the weekend, O’Neill was already prioritising the capture of a defender and midfielder during this month’s transfer window.

Given that the Sunderland boss was able to name only six substitutes at the Reebok Stadium, such is the pressure on his squad, the latest problems increase the need for a rapid transfer breakthrough.

“We really do now need to do some things,” said O’Neill.

“It is necessary.

“There’s obviously a problem with both Danny and Carlos, and (Stephane) Sessegnon cried off at the last minute before we boarded the plane.

“We have injuries to players, we don’t have the biggest squad, and we’re really stretched. We’ve now lost a couple more, but we’re going to try to do something about it if we can.

“Well, not if we can, we need to. The owner is well aware (of the situation) and I think he wants to do something about it.”

Sunderland have been tracking a number of players since the transfer window opened, and a more formal set of approaches is anticipated this week.

Signing a central midfielder has always been a key objective, and while Black Cats officials have expressed an interest in taking former Everton play-maker Tim Cahill on loan, the club’s key target is Bursaspor midfielder Alfred N’Diaye.

The France Under-21 international is valued at around £2m, and with initial contact between the two clubs already having taken place, O’Neill is hoping to push through a deal before this weekend’s Premier League home game with West Ham.

N’Diaye, 22, began his senior career with Nancy, and has spent the last season-anda- half with Bursaspor after completing a 3m euros move to Turkey in the summer of 2011.

He has represented France at every youth level up to the Under-21s.

As well as landing a midfielder, O’Neill is also determined to sign a defender this month.

His need for central defensive reinforcements became more acute following injuries to Cuellar and John O’Shea and the latest gloomy prognosis about the long-term prospects of a return for Wes Brown. Sunderland have inquired about a number of defenders, and are poised to step up their pursuit of Anderlecht’s Roland Juhasz in the next 24 hours.

The Hungary international is set to leave his Belgian employers this month, and O’Neill has raised the possibility of a loan deal with a view to a £2.5m transfer in the summer. However, if Anderlecht are unwilling to agree to such a move, it is understood he will consider making a permanent offer now.

Juhasz, who will turn 30 in the summer, boasts 76 senior caps for Holland and has been tracked by both Celtic and Rangers in the past.

Meanwhile, O’Neill has paid tribute to the 5,000 travelling supporters who roared Sunderland on at the weekend.

The Black Cats’ away following made up almost half the crowd at the Reebok Stadium, and O’Neill made a point of crossing the field to acknowledge them in the wake of the final whistle.

“We owed them something,”

he said. “They came in their droves and have supported the club through thick and thin.

“We took over 2,000 to Southampton just before Christmas, then had 40,000 at home (to Manchester City) and took a large travelling contingent to Liverpool. We owed them something after the performance in the first half, and thankfully were able to turn things around.”

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