Blackpool tracking Sunderland midfielder

Connor Oliver in action for Sunderland U21s against Villarreal. Picture by FRANK REID
Connor Oliver in action for Sunderland U21s against Villarreal. Picture by FRANK REID
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BLACKPOOL are keeping tabs on Sunderland youngster Connor Oliver, with a view to a January loan move for the midfielder.

Oliver made his professional debut during a two-month loan at League Two club Hartlepool United last season and has made nine appearances for Sunderland Under-21s this time around after initially being dogged by injuries since graduating from the Black Cats academy.

The Echo understands that Championship strugglers Blackpool – now under the stewardship of ex-Sunderland midfielder Lee Clark – have been watching the 20-year-old and are looking to take him on loan when the January transfer window opens.

Sunderland are unlikely to stand in Oliver’s way of playing regular football, with the midfielder – also capable of lining up at centre-half – not threatening to push for a place in the first-team set-up.

But the Black Cats are now far more conservative in sending their youngsters out on loan to the lower leagues than they have been in previous years.

Only defender Scott Harrison, who has just returned from three months at Hartlepool, and goalkeeping pair Jordan Pickford and Joel Dixon, have spent time away from the Academy of Light this season.

Both head coach Gus Poyet and sporting director Lee Congerton agree that it can be more beneficial for youngsters to train alongside Premier League players at the academy than if they head out on loan and are used sparingly by their temporary clubs.

Sunderland have rejected interest from a host of Football League clubs since the summer for winger Duncan Watmore, who has continued to be the star turn for the U21s this season.

And the same applies to striker Mikael Mandron, albeit it is understood that there is serious interest from League One in a January loan for the 20-year-old.

Sunderland Under-21s – held by Villarreal in midweek – head to Chelsea tomorrow for their latest game in Division One of the Barclays U21 Premier League (1pm kick-off).

* Follow our Sunderland-West Ham matchday blog – the build-up starts from 11am on this website, and we’ll keep an eye on all the action locally and nationally