New faces can get us over cup disaster says Bardsley

DISASTER: Phil Bardsley

DISASTER: Phil Bardsley

First published in Football The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

AFTER describing Sunderland's third round exit to Bolton in the FA Cup as a 'disaster', full-back Phil Bardsley wants more new signings to bring a much-needed lift to the Wearside club.

Martin O'Neill, the Black Cats boss, has already brought in Alfred N'Diaye from Bursaspor and Kader Mangane from Al-Hilal but is actively pursuing a number of other targets.

Swansea striker Danny Graham is among those in his sights, particularly after informing French striker Louis Saha that he is free to find a new club this month.

In a bid to boost his squad for the rest of the season O'Neill has also asked Ahmed Elmohamady to cut short his season-long loan at Hull City and will be expected to compete for a place against Wigan this Saturday.

The Sunderland manager made no attempt to hide his frustration after watching the FA Cup exit at the hands of Championship team Bolton, suggesting he was ready to move players on who were not up to his demands.

And Bardsley thinks this month's movement in the transfer market could help banish the memories of a depressing January night when they were knocked out of the FA Cup by lower league opposition.

"It's nice to have seen a couple of players arrive and it's absolutely vital we get fresh faces in," said Bardsley. "We've not got the largest squad in the world so it's up to us as a club to get players in.

"That will help and hopefully the lads who've arrived this week will be able to show what they can do. We've still got things to play for and still got some big games coming up in the second half of the season. It's up to us to dust ourselves down and go again. We have to finish as high as possible and now that will be our goal."

The defeat to Bolton on Tuesday was made worse by the fact Sunderland had already lost in the early rounds of the Capital One Cup to another Championship team, Middlesbrough.

"The most disappointing thing is that in both of the cup competitions we've gone out in games we'd have backed ourselves to win," said Bardsley. "No disrespect to Bolton but with them coming here we thought we had a great chance. It wasn't to be unfortunately and we let ourselves down. Never mind, we'll have to go again.

"The competition gave us a great buzz last year but we've let ourselves down here. We've paid the price and are out of the cup.

"The whole place was a little bit flat, we can't blame that because the performance wasn't what it should have been. We've got to turn our attention back to the league and look to the top ten. For the rest of the season that will be the aim - finish as high up the table a possible."

Sunderland head for Wigan this Saturday six points above the relegation zone after last Saturday's comfortable win over West Ham. The improvement in form in the Premier League is something of a sweetener during the cup disappointments.

Bardsley said: "It was a great performance on Saturday and the performance was great for us but to go out of the cup just a few days later is a real disaster for us.

"It's all about the league now. It has to be. We'll be wanting to win as many games as we can to close in on the top ten. It's a tough league but I'm sure with the players we've got we can dust ourselves down and go again.

"It'll be a tough game at the weekend but it's up to us to go to places like Wigan and get a result. That's what we have to do now."

It is unlikely that Saha will be involved at the DW Stadium. The 34-year-old signed a one-year contract last summer after leaving Tottenham.

And O'Neill said: "We have told Louis he is free to speak to other clubs and to leave if he can fix himself up somewhere. We have to come to an agreement whereby we will cancel the remainder of his contract, shake hands and go our separate ways."

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