Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is convinced big-money signings Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson will bring the flair back to the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats finally addressed the lack of firepower which has hampered them ever since Darren Bent’s shock departure to Aston Villa in January last year when they made a sensational double swoop on Friday.
Striker Fletcher and winger Johnson arrived on Wearside within hours of each other after owner and chairman Ellis Short splashed out well in excess of £20m €25.2m) in fees alone to capture O’Neill’s major summer targets.
The manager could hardly have been more delighted, and although 25-year-old Fletcher was denied a swift debut when Saturday’s Barclays Premier League fixture against Reading fell victim to torrential rain in the north-east, both he and Johnson, also 25, could figure in tonight’s Capital One Cup second-round tie against League Two Morecambe.
O’Neill said: “Fletcher gives us a bit of a new dimension. I would love to promise that we will score a lot more goals with the two in the team, but I do get the impression that we will create more chances.
“Johnson is a very exciting player. He just needs more encouragement to keep going.
“He is the type of player I love, someone who takes opponents on. I used to do it myself – without great success.”
In the last 18 months, the Black Cats have reluctantly sold Bent and Asamoah Gyan and seen loan signings Danny Welbeck and Nicklas Bendtner return to their parent clubs.
Until the arrival of 34-year-old Louis Saha earlier this month, O’Neill’s pool of strikers comprised Fraizer Campbell, Ji Dong-won, Connor Wickham and Ryan Noble.
The manager made little secret of the fact his main focus during the close season would be on plugging those gaps, and Friday’s double breakthrough after a frustrating few months brought a more than satisfactory conclusion to the protracted search.
O’Neill has admitted he would probably not have made wholesale changes to the team which started against Reading had the game gone ahead, and now faces a series of decisions with only Saturday’s trip to in-form Swansea to come before the break for international matches.
However, asked if both the new boys might be involved, he said: “That depends.
“Adam, with playing for England, his fitness is fine and a lot more advanced than Steven Fletcher.
“In fairness, Adam wanted to get things sorted on Friday, but the timing for Saturday just beat us.
“I think for him, it would be a great opportunity. He will be playing.”