Black Cats still struggling to add fresh blood

NEW BOY ... Sunderland signing Carlos Cuellar.
NEW BOY ... Sunderland signing Carlos Cuellar.

CARLOS Cuellar will be the only fresh face at the Academy of Light on Wednesday when Sunderland begin their pre-season regime.

Cuellar has been Sunderland’s sole recruit of the summer transfer window so far after Martin O’Neill pounced to land the Spanish defender on a Bosman deal last week.

But Sunderland remain a distance away from adding further recruits to the squad, with the Black Cats not thought to be close to tying up a deal for anyone on the radar.

That will mean a familiar look to the party which gathers at Cleadon this week for the start of pre-season training, with the only notable absentees Euro 2012 participants John O’Shea, Seb Larsson, Keiren Westwood and James McClean, along with Stephane Sessegnon and Ahmed Elmohamady – both involved in African Cup of Nations qualifiers during the summer.

O’Neill will not be panicking at the lack of new signings though, with the Sunderland boss renowned for taking careful consideration over incoming players and still facing almost six weeks before the opening Premier League game at Arsenal.

A striker remains at the top of O’Neill’s wishlist, with Wolves hitman Steven Fletcher still a target.

Wolves have slapped a £10million price tag on the head of both winger Matt Jarvis and Fletcher and insist they are yet to receive even an enquiry for the latter, who notched 12 times in the Premier League last season for the top flight’s basement boys.

Fletcher is understood to be aware of Sunderland’s interest, but was due to report back for pre-season training with Wolves today.

Free agent Junior Hoilett, whose contract at Blackburn has now expired - albeit the Ewood Park outfit would be owed compensation due to the winger’s age, is another who O’Neill continues to pursue.

Sunderland chief scout Pop Robson watched Hoilett on several occasions last season, with O’Neill keen to add more width to the side.

Interest in Hoilett from Bundesliga outfit Borussia Mönchengladbach has faded, but the 22-year-old’s wage demands are a significant barrier, particularly as Arsenal have held several rounds of talks with the Canadian’s agent and father David Hoilett snr.

Sunderland are also eager to land a new left-back and creative midfielder, but are highly unlikely to pursue a move for Real Mallorca defender Ivan Ramis who was linked with the Wearsiders, Everton and Aston Villa over the weekend.

Ramis, 27, is rated in the £9million bracket and is keen to engineer a move to England.

“This could be the ideal moment to make a change and the Premier League appeals,” he said.

The arrival of Cuellar has left Sunderland over-stocked in central defence, with Matt Kilgallon, Titus Bramble and Michael Turner all vulnerable to a move in the final year of their Black Cats contracts.

Likewise, utility man Kieran Richardson has just 12 months remaining on his deal and the likes of West Ham, QPR and Reading have all been linked to the former Manchester United man.

Sunderland are thought to be prepared to offload Richardson if they receive a suitable offer, but the 27-year-old will report for training on Wednesday before O’Neill’s men set off on their pre-season trip to South Korea next Monday.