Lars Knutsen offers a hearty welcome to Martin O’Neill’s new acquisitions, applauds the manager’s role in persuading stars to come our way and quietly approves of heavy rain on Wearside …
It seems that good Premiership level strikers are like buses – you wait for them for a long time in the rain, and suddenly two or three come along at once.
The signing of Steven Fletcher was a triumph for Martin O’Neill’s patient and determined approach.
The Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey had been holding out for the best possible deal, needing cash to rebuild after several sales, including Knightly and Jarvis, with 15 per cent of the fee for Fletcher going back to Burnley.
The rumoured price of £12m, rising to £14m with performance add-ons, means that Fletcher is the most expensive Scottish footballer ever, comfortably beating the £9m Roy Keane forked out for Craig Gordon. Not the most expensive Scottish Project ever, that honour went to the Edinburgh Parliament Building, but I will wind up Scottish friends by acknowledging that such expenditure was in a totally different league, £414m after initial estimates of between £10m and £40m.
Sunderland fans will look to Fletcher, 25, to score with headers, which he excelled at last season in a struggling side. We have missed an aerial threat, goals from crosses in the Premiership have halved in the past two years. He has a great chance of settling in the city, where he has family, and becoming a legend.
If by next year Fletcher is mentioned in the same breath as Billy Hughes, Gary Rowell, Marco Gabbiadini, and dare I mention them, the Niall Quinn plus Kevin Phillips combination, it would be mission accomplished for the club’s current visionary management.
To achieve such legendary status Fletch will have to score regularly, including a belter or two against those deluded barcodes across the river Tyne. So I look to him to be Fletching happily for some years to come – “fletching” consists of the three matched half-feathers attached neathe back of an arrow’s shaft – and if he arrows in enough shots, hitting the target, Sunderland fans will take to him rapidly.
O’Neill’s cunning plan, discussed earlier in http://blogs.soccernet.com/sunderland/archives/2012/08/12m_bid_to_snag_fletcher.php, now revealed, is for Sessegnon to provide crosses and lay-offs from the right, as well as McClean and our other new signing Adam Johnson to provide ammunition from the left, with them both chipping in vital goals.
Attracting Johnson, 25, is a major coup for our manager; the player came close to joining the Black Cats two+ years ago, but opted instead for the glamour of Manchester City, where he scored seven goals from midfield in the past two seasons.
He has often been used as a substitute, which meant some frustration while warming the bench, despite being capped 10 times for England. Johnson is a Mackem (of uncertain boyhood allegiance – ed), a great acquisition, and he is home again. He was attracted by the charisma of our manager and his plans for taking the club to the top echelons of the Premier League. Playing regularly will help his international ambitions and as a team we now have plenty of cover, with several attacking midfielders available.
With the experienced Louis Saha imparting his considerable knowledge to our new strike force, including Fraizer Campbell, Ji Dong Won and Connor Wickham, we have finally found a way to bury the traumatic memory of Darren Bent’s departure. £10m + £14m = £24m: Bent is at the bottom of the league with Villa, and we as a club can justifiably look onwards and upwards.
Once I got over the surprise, I was secretly pleased that Sunderland’s home game was postponed after horrendous rain on Wearside; it afforded the pleasure of seeing Newc**tle lose live at Stamford Bridge, and to get quietly excited about our new signings. But best of all it gives the team time to bed in these exciting new players on the training pitch before we face in-form Swansea next week.