Sunderland spending continues with Gardner
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has completed a transfer double by snapping up Birmingham City midfielder Craig Gardner for an undisclosed fee. The 24-year-old has signed a three-year deal after heading for Wearside yesterday to hold talks.
His arrival caps a good two days for the Black Cats, who earlier today pushed through their move for Korea Republic striker Ji Dong-Won, after landing Connor Wickham yesterday.
Gardner, who is understood to have cost his new club in the region of £4.5m, which could rise to £6m, was City's top scorer last season and will be handed the task of providing goals from the middle of the park, where he is likely to take over from Jordan Henderson following the 21-year-old's big-money switch to Liverpool.
The Solihull-born player is a boyhood Birmingham fan despite beginning his senior career with arch-rivals Aston Villa, and he helped the Blues to a famous League Cup final victory over Arsenal last season.
However, the club's relegation from the Premier League made his departure almost inevitable, and the Black Cats were quick to make their interest known and then persuade Gardner that his future lay at the Stadium of Light.
Gardner told SAFC TV: "It's unbelievable, to be honest. As soon as I found out Sunderland were interested, it was a no-brainer.
"Obviously I have heard so much about Steve Bruce and his backroom staff, and how good a chairman Niall Quinn is. It's such a massive club and their ambitions for this season meet my ambitions, and it was too good to turn down."
Gardner, who scored ten goals in the last campaign, is confident he can bring the same potency to Wearside, where he is setting his sights high after hearing Bruce's recruitment plans, which have already landed him five new signings.
He said: "It means that the club wants to go places. Obviously, we want to finish as high up the table as we can - we want to be in Europe next year and it's a great task to go and chase. It's a good goal for us and we can go and do it, and I am sure we will."
Ji relishing Premier League challenge
Gardner's arrival was announced just hours after Sunderland confirmed that Ji had completed his protracted move to the Stadium of Light, also for an undisclosed fee and on a three-year contract. The 20-year-old former Chunnam Dragons player will join record signing Asamoah Gyan and fellow new boy Connor Wickham in a new-look frontline, and he too has high hopes of making his mark.
He said: "As a striker, I like to overwhelm defenders. My aim is to help the team get as many points as possible. That is what will give me satisfaction.
"I am so satisfied to be able to come to a good club, a nice club in the world's number one league. I am happy because I have a chance to challenge the biggest players, and that gives me motivation."
Ji finally put pen to paper after having to wait for the administrative details of his move, including a work permit, to be finalised. Bruce said:
"The boy has been in fantastic form for both club and country, and he was one of South Korea's stand-out performers at the Asian Cup, so we are delighted to bring him to Sunderland. The Barclays Premier League is very different to the K-League, so there is hard work ahead, but you just have to look at players like Park Ji-Sung and Lee Chung-Yong to see how well Korean players are adapting to its pace and physicality."
Ji becomes the latest man from his country to try his luck in the Premier League alongside Manchester United's Park and Lee of Bolton Wanderers, although he admits it may take him some time to settle in both on and off the field.
"It will not be easy," he said. "I am enjoying the life and studying English. I hope I could be a member of this team within six months."