STEVE Bruce could have three of his former Sunderland players at Hull City before the transfer window closes if Fraizer Campbell is allowed to follow David Meyler out of the Stadium of Light, writes Graeme Anderson.
Ahmed Elmohamady is already on a season-long loan at the KC Stadium, while Meyler’s £1.5million move to the promotion-chasing Championship side is set to be rubber-stamped soon.
And with Campbell’s camp now signalling that the striker would be happy to drop down a division, Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has been left to ponder the future of a forward who is out of contract at the end of this season.
Campbell has scored only one goal in 14 appearances this season – the 3-1 defeat to his former club Manchester United in mid-December – but can Sunderland trim a squad already lightened this week by Ji Dong-won’s loan move to German side Augsburg and Meyler’s impending departure?
Campbell has been unable to sustain the momentum of his goalscoring comeback early last year which saw him win a surprise England call-up.
But the 25-year-old remains blessed with pace, enthusiasm and confidence and O’Neill has used him as a squad player in recent weeks, selecting the younger man over 34-year-old veteran forward Louis Saha.
Ironically, Campbell could be due to start in tomorrow’s FA Cup tie at Bolton Wanderers, where he could partner Saha or Connor Wickham.
But Campbell’s father Keith, who handles his son’s contract talks and moves, has thrown a spanner in the works by suggesting the striker would consider a move away from Wearside this month.
He pointed out that his son knows Bruce would love to take him back to the club he helped get promoted during a successful loan spell in 2007/08 and the striker would certainly consider it.
“Fraizer is aware of what Steve Bruce has said about being interested in signing him and he would definitely be interested in coming back to Hull,” said Mr Campbell.
“He is very impressed with the way they play and feels he would fit.
“He is also a big fan of Steve Bruce.
“The problem is it is difficult at present, as there has not been any approach as of yet that Sunderland have told us about.
“Martin O’Neill has not given any indication as to what may be going on, and he will be the key to whatever happens this month.
“He hasn’t been playing Fraizer as much as we would like, and he brought in Steven Fletcher, but he’s not saying anything about letting him go either. We will have to see what happens.”
Bruce would jump at the chance of getting Campbell back to the KC Stadium.
With the Tigers already in an automatic promotion position, Campbell, Meyler and Elmohamady might just be enough to push Hull over the line in the second half of the season.
Up until now, the Hull manager wondered whether Campbell himself would welcome a loan or a permanent move, suspecting the striker would prefer to take his chances with Sunderland and the prospect of a Premier League future.
But Hull’s impressive run to the top of the table and a chance of being further up the pecking order in a potentially newly-promoted side would appeal to him
Campbell’s father added: “We hear there may be interest from another club also, but Fraizer would not be too concerned about dropping into the Championship with Hull, because we would be confident he would have a big impact on their promotion push.
“When he joined Hull before, they were just above the relegation places, and his goals helped them to promotion.
“Now, he is a far better player, and he would be confident that he would have a big impact on Hull’s team, especially given how they are playing.
“Fraizer is out of contract in the summer, so that is a factor that will come into play, but for now it’s something that lies at Martin O’Neill’s door.”
Campbell became a Hull hero when he scored 15 goals in 34 appearances in 2007/08 to earn the club their first ever promotion to the top flight.
The Tigers lost out on him though when he decided to join Sunderland in a £3.5million move from Old Trafford in 2009.
But his Sunderland career has been blighted by two long-term cruciate knee ligament injuries and the indications are that he feels he would be better served rebuilding it at a club where he was starting games regularly.
The final say, though, will come down to O’Neill and the manager has made it clear he believes Sunderland cannot afford to allow squad players to leave unless they are replaced with better, as well as pointing out that his aim is to increase rather than decrease his playing pool.
Meyler, meanwhile, has said his farewells to Sunderland – the club he joined from Cork in 2008 – ahead of his move being confirmed.
The 23-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder, who has scored three goals in seven starts on loan, said: “It’s a big decision.
“I’ve loved my time at Sunderland and made some great friends that I’ll never forget.
“But I’ve been unfortunate where I’ve had two serious injuries and it’s been stop-start for about 18 months now.
“I want to help Hull into the Premier League and if it means dropping down a division for now, then that’s what I’ll do.”