Home » EPL, Latest » Martin O’Neill set to be handed £20m transfer kitty at Sunderland

Martin O’Neill will be handed a £20million January war chest – and Andy Johnson is top of his hitlist.

Former Aston Villa boss O’Neill, 59, swept into the Academy of Light training ground yesterday morning for detailed talks with owner Ellis Short and former chairman Niall Quinn.

And the Ulsterman’s formal appointment as new gaffer was confirmed at just after 2pm.

O’Neill, who has been out of the game since quitting Villa 16 months ago, said: “It’s a very nice feeling to be back in football and to be the manager of Sunderland.

“It’s a big moment for me. I heard what a good club it was but after coming here and seeing the stadium and training ground, I’ve been bowled over. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

One of O’Neill’s first jobs will be to succeed where axed gaffer Steve Bruce failed – by landing a top-quality striker. And he is expected to move for Fulham hitman Johnson, 30, as soon as the transfer window swings open.

O’Neill watched the Cottagers’ clash at Arsenal last Saturday, when AJ came on for the last 15 minutes.

Johnson’s contract is up at the end of the season and he will be available for a £1m loan fee in January though the player himself would prefer a permanent move.

O’Neill has always liked experienced midfield players and he could also try to tempt Fulham boss Martin Jol with a bid for 34-year-old Danny Murphy.

O’Neill is clearly the man the Sunderland fans wanted to replace Bruce, who was chopped on Wednesday. And now he has arrived at the club he supported as a boy.

He officially moves into the Black Cats hotseat tomorrow but will be at Molineux today to watch his new side take on Wolves.

O’Neill added: “I hope I can help Sunderland to a very successful period. That’s what I’ve come for – that’s my driving ambition.”

Short said: “Martin has as good a managerial pedigree as you could wish to find. He is a very astute, top-level manager.

“During his time at Aston Villa he established the club firmly in the top 10 of the Premier League year on year and this is something we are striving to achieve at Sunderland.

“Having spoken with him over the last two days I know he is brimming with enthusiasm and anticipation about the challenge of taking Sunderland forward and I believe he is the perfect choice to deliver the success we all desire.”

O’Neill is superb at man-management and the first thing he will do having agreed a three-year contract is to assure the Sunderland players they will all start with a clean sheet.

The Black Cats faithful will hope O’Neill will bring his backroom team of Steve Walford and John Robertson with him. Cockney boy Walford has been with him through thick and thin, although long-time lieutenant Robertson has indicated he would like to call it a day. The Scot has, however, hinted he would be prepared to work as a part-time consultant.

That’s why it is not 100 per cent certain that Bruce’s No.2 Eric Black will follow his former boss out of the exit door. Like O’Neill, Black – who looks after the team today – has strong Celtic connections and would like to work with the ex-Parkhead chief.

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