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Will Sunderland be the transfer window's big movers?

Martin O'Neill is ready to re-shape his squad, but how much work will take place?

Newcastle United have been attracting the plaudits in the North East, and rightly so with their creditable and unexpected fifth placed finish.

Sunderland had a mixed bag of a season, terrible under Steve Bruce, excellent for the first three months under Martin O'Neill, and lethargic over the past month and a half of the season.

That final month and a half will have taught O'Neill just as much as he learned when they were winning.

He will have seen his players weaknesses, where his squad needs strengthening, and learned plenty about the character of his players.

He chose not to make any signings in January, giving the players a chance, and now will be the time for him to put his own stamp on the squad.

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Sunderland under the ownership of Ellis Short have been big spenders in recent seasons, and the American will surely back his new manager again this time around.

However after a season of standing still, he will want a return on his investment, and O'Neill's challenge will be to push for a European place, while fans will want to finish ahead of rivals Newcastle, who also have Europa League football to balance.

Since 2008, Sunderland have spent heavily; £24.6 million in 08/09, £31 million in 09/10, £22 million in 10/11, and £24 million last season.

They have made sales too, most notably the £24 million departure of Darren Bent to Aston Villa and the £20 million sale of Jordan Henderson, but sit fourth in the Premier League net spend table over the past five seasons.

This season, they will again no doubt be busy, but will have to do their fair share of selling too.

In the departure lounge will be goalkeeper Craig Gordon, now third choice, possibly a reportedly unsettled Craig Gardner, and off-loading record signing Asamoah Gyan from their books, who has let the club down badly with his sojourn in the Middle East. One key point is to retain Stephane Sessegnon, and fend off interest from London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

As for targets, the club will be after strikers, for sure. Nicklas Bendtner is unlikely to return, while Connor Wickham is yet to show the potential which convinced Steve Bruce to spend £8 million on him.

Jordan Rhodes is a name linked, but after Wickham, the club may be wary of signing a free scoring prospect from the football league to lead the attack.

O'Neill has already been linked with Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand, on loan, and a surprise swoop for Tottenham midfielder Steven Pienaar.

Not so excitingly, Karl Henry has been touted, and fellow Wolves player Steven Fletcher has said he has turned down a move to the Black Cats.

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha has been linked too, as has free agent Carlos Cuellar, who recently left Aston Villa.

Intriguingly, the season has not even been over a week, and the transfer window has not even officially opened. The transfer targets and speculation will increase, and arrive in waves. Sunderland will make their moves, and once again be one of the league's busiest teams.

It promises to be an exciting summer in the North East.

What changes do you foresee at Sunderland next season?

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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