Bruce wants swift start to his summer signings
STEVE BRUCE has met with chairman Niall Quinn to put plans in place to make immediate moves to land Sunderland's first signings of the summer. Bruce, keen to make quick additions ahead of what is likely to be a frantic summer of recruitment, has been assessing the list of players that will become free agents at the end of their contracts. Once Sunderland have finished the campaign at West Ham United on Sunday, Bruce is keen to ensure the first of his summer targets are signed and sealed in double quick time. It is understood Birmingham winger Seb Larsson, Blackpool midfielder David Vaughan and Cardiff City striker Jay Bothroyd are in the Black Cats' sights, having effectively been priced out of moves for more expensive free agents Miroslav Klose and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Bruce is also aware Stoke City's John Carew and Bolton's Johan Elmander are also available for nothing during the close-season. He is, though, unlikely to pursue West Ham striker Demba Ba, while admitting he could be tempted to look at other relegated Hammers players. We will be watching West Ham at the weekend because my experience of it, and this club has had it, that you struggle to keep your best players because you have to make cuts, said Bruce. Make no mistake there will be some rich pickings there. I have just had a meeting this morning with Niall. It was about the way ahead and which players we are plotting and looking at. I would expect us to be extremely busy this summer. There are a couple of Bosmans out there which now need to take over our thinking. There's a couple of players we have identified and straight after the season has finished we can talk to them. Since the departure of Darren Bent in January, Sunderland have been caught out by a lack of striker options, particularly given that Fraizer Campbell, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck have been sidelined through injury. With Welbeck not expected to be granted a second season's loan from Manchester United and Campbell ruled out for the majority of next season too, Bruce knows making quick progress on that front is essential. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to work out where we have to start, said Bruce. It is the top end of the pitch, which is the most expensive, that we have to find. We want to go with at least four recognised strikers because we have seen what happens if you don't. We have got one so we have three more to sign, although having said that Stephane Sessegnon has played well of late and gives us another option. With the loans of John Mensah, Nedum Onuoha and Welbeck all unlikely to be renewed, Bruce knows he cannot really afford to lose many more players. But with the likes of Anton Ferdinand, Craig Gordon and Steed Malbranque all entering the final year of their contracts, his stance could be tested if an offer arrives. The situation has not been helped by the confirmation that Dutch midfielder Bolo Zenden will not sign a new contract with the club. He has been unhappy with his lack of involvement in the first team during his two years at the Stadium of Light. Bruce said: I wish him well. He has been a fantastic pro. He wants to play week in and week out and at his age I fully understand. I have been in exactly the same position myself, where you only have a couple of years left and you want to play week in and week out. I could not look Bolo in the eye and say to him, if everyone is fit you will be my number one choice'. I could not give him that promise. He understood that and I would think he has something up his sleeve. Bruce, who hinted both Ferdinand and Gyan could figure at Upton Park after injury, did admit he now thinks Zenden, 34, should have been given a bigger part to play this season. Wherever he goes, someone will benefit from a very good player, said Bruce. With hindsight, up until the end of January I did not tinker with the team because I didn't have to. My regret is that I should have played him in the eight or nine games we struggled in.
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