EUROPE IS THE TARGET

Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley has said that he is hoping that the club can push for a European place this season following the significant additions they have made to the squad in the summer transfer window. Players like Carlos Cuellar has arrived at the club on a free transfer, while many more are expected to follow suit due to the presence of the former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill. The Irishman was appointed midway through the last season and he helped the club avoid relegation. Even more impressive was the fact that he helped them finish a respectable 13th position in the Premier league.

Even though he is not expected to have the same kind of transfer funds he used to experience at Aston Villa, it is expected to be significant than in previous seasons. The Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley has grown into one of the important members of the team. He has said that the additions that the club have made in the transfer window up until now and also till the end of the transfer window are going to be significant. He hopes that they will help the club finish in the European places. It has been a long time since Sunderland experienced European football.

“Carlos Cuellar has come in and bolstered the squad so it is great news for us and hopefully there are a few more faces on the way to help us head in the direction we want to go in this season. It is up to the players now to knuckle down in pre-season, work as hard as we can and be fresh for the start,” said Phil Bardsley ahead of the start of the new season. Players like John O’Shea, Kieran Richardson and a few others are expected to make way for the addition of new signings.

Defensive concerns for Sunderland

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill could face a potential defensive headache as centre back Wes Brown suffered suspected knee ligament damage in the Black Casts 3-2 friendly victory against FC Groningen on Sunday.

The former Manchester United man, signed for a fee of an estimated £1 million last summer could face a lengthy lay off and has flown back to Wearside for immediate treatment. The medical staff at the Stadium of Light will be hoping this latest knock is not a recurrence of the knee problem sustained against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in January which ruled Brown out for the second half of last season.

Brown’s injury adds him to a growing list of unavailable players for Sunderland, with defenders Phil Bardsley and Matthew Kilgallon left at home for their side’s pre season tour after picking up knocks in training.

Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar, a new arrival from O’Neill’s former club Aston Villa, also had to be brought off during the win, but his manager has stated that this was a precautionary measure rather than another confirmed injury setback.

Nevertheless, the Sunderland management will be hoping for no more injury problems in their remaining three warm up games with Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and midfielder David Vaughan both picking up injuries of their own during the club’s tour of South Korea.

The potential long term loss of Brown could however be the most serious of O’Neills worries, and should the former England international’s knee problem be as bad as first feared O’Neill will no doubt be disappointed to lose someone he considers “ an important player” before the season has even begun.

Sunderland could be on the brink of bringing in new recruits to reinforce their injury plagued defence, with the press recently linking Villa pair Stephen Warnock and James Collins with a move to the North East.

GLAD GORDON IS BACK

Sunderland defender Michael Turner has said that the club and the staff are extremely delighted to see the return of goalkeeper Craig Gordon the first team action.

Craig Gordon has had an injury laden spell during his time at Sunderland. He has just returned to the first-team action after more than a year of not playing football, which has also increased the speculation on his future. The goalkeeper is out of contract at the end of the season, but Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has said that he will give the former Scotland international every opportunity to prove himself in the remaining Premier league matches.

Craig and was making his first start for Sunderland since February 2011 in the match against Bolton during the weekend. Sunderland managed a 2-2 draw from the match. It was a good result considering that the team had nothing to play for in the remaining three matches of the Premier league season. Following the match, defender Michael Turner said that it was a great delight to see Gordon between the sticks once again. The 29-year-old goalkeeper was once thought of as the next big thing between the sticks, but he has offered a lot of injuries since he has been at Sunderland.

“It’s great, everyone’s pleased to see Craig back. He’s had 15 months since he last played, so well done to him for getting back playing, he’s had a tough ride. It’s always tough when you’ve been out for months on end. I’m sure he’ll be pleased with how it went for him,” Michael Turner said after the match. Bolton striker Kevin Davies caused a lot of problems for Craig Gordon during the match, but Turner said that it was expected because of the time he has been out of the first team action.

SUNDERLAND GET OFF TO PERFECT START

Sunderland came from behind in the most impressive fashion’s against Blackburn to record a much-needed win in the dying minutes of the game. Blackburn were leading the game 1-0 going into the final 10 min, but crucial substitutions from the new manager Martin O’Neill helped Sunderland to overturn the one goal deficit to a two-goal lead.

The three points against Blackburn provided them with much-needed breathing space from the relegation zone given that teams like Wigan had been picking up points in the last few weeks. Now, Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley has said that it took something special for them to beat Blackburn when everything looked beyond them.

Sunderland equalised through former Blackpool midfielder David Vaughan and Sebastian Larsson provided the much needed a goal just minutes before the final whistle. The 2-1 final result was extremely surprising for many who had been leaving the ground just a few minutes ago in the thought that Sunderland would never be able to get past Blackburn. This was Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge after the former Aston Villa manager watched his side lose by the same score against Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend. Blackburn defence held pretty strong up until then and Phil Bardsley reckons that it took something special to break them.

“Ten minutes made the world of difference. We dominated large parts of the game – Blackburn didn’t get over the halfway line that often in the second half and we put them under so much pressure. We needed that killer instinct and finally we got there in the last 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter when you get the goals as long as you end up with the three points on the board,” Phil Bardsley said after the win on the club’s official website. The win keeps Sunderland just two points ahead of the drop zone.