Sbragia targets Premier-proven defender

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The Independent Online

Ricky Sbragia, the Sunderland manager, is looking close to home as he attempts to reinforce his squad. Sbragia is targeting an experienced defender during this month's transfer window – he has been linked with West Ham United's Calum Davenport among others – and he will not consider a foreign player who has not already proven himself in English football. Sbragia is not averse to recruiting from overseas, but believes the January window is the wrong time to do it.

He said: "I definitely won't go for a foreigner this time because it takes a little bit of time for them to bed in. The time for a foreigner to come in would be the summer. I am looking for a player with Premier League experience, and that's difficult to get. A lot of clubs don't want want to release them."

Sbragia has been in charge at the Stadium of Light for a little more than a month, initially as caretaker, but as permanent manager since just before the turn of the year.

He freely admits his time at the helm has been something of a whirlwind, but having got to know the squad he inherited from predecessor Roy Keane well during his time on the Irishman's coaching staff, he has quickly been able to assess its strengths, weaknesses and needs.

However, he will not make wholesale changes and risk weakening the collective spirit within the camp.

He said: "I won't go for a novice, I just need somebody with a little bit more experience. I would like to add another one because I feel the squad I have got, they are different class.

"They work well together, there is a bond between them and we are a bit concerned that maybe bringing a couple in might break that." Sbragia is adamant that none of his senior players will be allowed to leave Wearside during the window amid speculation that Pascal Chimbonda, El-Hadji Diouf and David Healy could go.

All three played a part in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough, with the Northern Ireland striker coming off the bench to provide the cross from which Kenwyne Jones snatched a point.

The Trinidad & Tobago forward has himself been linked with a £12m switch to Aston Villa, although the possibility of that happening has been dismissed out of hand by Sunderland.

Sbragia has allowed Graham Kavanagh and Ross Wallace to leave the club, while Roy O'Donovan has been sent on loan to Blackpool for the rest of the campaign and Liam Miller has been linked with Queen's Park Rangers.However, as Sbragia awaits news of the feelers the club has put out with a view to landing the man he wants to bring in, he admits he could have done with more time before making his move.

He said: "I don't know their personalities, I don't know what they are like off the field. I need to spend more time and see players. The window, from my point of view, has come too early for me. I could have done with it in another couple of months and been able to have a look at some players and get to know their backgrounds. That's important as well."

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