SUNDERLAND have signed former Czech Under 21 defender Ondrej Celustka on a season-long loan.
The right-back, whose parent club is Turkish side Trabzonspor, will now come into the reckoning for the Black Cats’ season opener against Fulham this Saturday - especially with obvious option Craig Gardner suspended for the game.
Agreement on today’s move was reached swiftly after Sunderland opened their pursuit of the player last week and the East European now becomes the club’s 10th signing of the summer.
Sunderland turned their attention to the former Slavia Prague right-back after the collapse of prolonged efforts to bring Velez Sarsfield full-back Gino Peruzzi to the Stadium of Light.
The Argentine failed a medical at the end of last month, forcing Sunderland into a rethink and Celustka emerged as the answer to Paolo Di Canio’s request for an attack-minded full-back capable of regularly going past his winger.
He can play anywhere along the back line but his preferred position is right-back and that’s where Sunderland intend to deploy him.
The 6ft 1in defender’s biggest strengths are his pace and his technique and Sunderland will hope that he is the player capable of making the overlapping runs that will free up and bring the most out of right-winger Adam Johnson.
Celustka started his career at hometown club FC Tescoma Zin before moving to Slavia Prague in 2009.
He made 41 appearances there before joining Trabzonspor in 2011 - going on to make 55 appearances for the Turkish outfit.
Sunderland had to fight off interest from both Crystal Palace and Turkish side Antalyaspor to land their man with the player himself confirming last week: “Antalyaspor wanted me, but my goal is to play in England.”
After his move was completed today, he tweeted: “Thanks your celebrate messages. I’m very happy.”
Celustka’s arrival could have knock-on implications for Craig Gardner’s position at the club.
The former Aston Villa and Birmingham City midfielder is in the last year of his contract at the Stadium of Light and can go if the right offer comes in for him.
The 26-year-old, a £5m signing in the summer of 2011, has been happy at Sunderland and developed a bond with fans and would be happy to stick it out and see if he could play his way back into Di Canio’s plans again at Sunderland.
But should Celustka become immediate first-choice at the club, Gardner is likely to prefer a move away in the current window, rather than face the prospect of months of in-action on the sidelines.