O'Leary pursues Sorensen

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The Independent Football

The strength of what seemed like a union of opposites, between the free-spending David O'Leary and the financially cautious Doug Ellis, faces another early test after the new Aston Villa manager went public on his interest in Sunderland's Danish international goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen yesterday.

O'Leary, who missed out on the England keeper Paul Robinson because Villa and their notoriously prudent chairman were unwilling to match his salary at Leeds, revealed that he had also been keen to land Feyenoord's Brett Emerton before the Australian midfielder joined Blackburn.

However, the former Leeds manager also admitted his desire to secure Sorensen, saying: "I believe we need to boost the goalkeeping side of things at the club. That's no reflection on Peter Enckelman or Stefan Postma, and I'd be happy to start with whoever shows up better in pre-season. But I'd have loved to have got Robinson and I like Sorensen very much as well."

Sunderland are believed to want a combined fee of between £4m and £5m for the Dane and another player coveted by O'Leary, the midfielder Gavin McCann. "I've left the situation for the clubs to resolve through the chairmen, the agents and whatever," he said. "Everybody's thinking: 'They've gone down, they have players to sell', but they don't seem to be getting rid of people just for the sake of it.

"I play no part in the financial side of this club. If I did we'd have signed Robinson. I'd also have loved Emerton to come. I think he's going to be excellent. He's someone I was chasing at Leeds. He would have fitted my philosophy of buying good young players and then turning silver into gold."

Despite a reputation as a "chequebook manager" fostered by an outlay of nearly £100m in four years at Elland Road, O'Leary insisted he would not be unduly disappointed if he failed to buy any new players before the Premiership kicks off on 16 August. "I'd rather go with what I've got than get someone in that I didn't really want," the Irishman said. "That would be an interesting test.

"And if we could get the best out of [Juan Pablo] Angel and Alpay, who hardly figured last season, it would be like having two new signings. They've both been brilliant in training."