MARTIN O’NEILL has confirmed Kieran Richardson wants to end his five-year stay at Sunderland.
Richardson was one of Sunderland’s stand-out performers in Saturday’s opening day stalemate at Arsenal after the left-back subdued England international Theo Walcott.
But the 27-year-old perhaps tellingly threw his shirt into the crowd after the final whistle and with less than 12 months remaining on his Black Cats contract, could be heading to pastures new before the transfer deadline.
Sunderland are yet to receive an offer for Richardson, despite the former Manchester United man being linked throughout the summer to London trio West Ham, QPR and Arsenal.
But O’Neill has now publicly admitted that Richardson wants to leave the Stadium of Light, although the Sunderland boss is unlikely to sanction any move unless he can bring in an adequate replacement before the August 31 transfer deadline.
O’Neill said: “Kieran came to see me in the transfer window and for family issues and what have you, he thought maybe a change would suit him.
“It’s been ongoing but no-one has come in and made an offer.
“Naturally, if he plays like that I’d like to keep him.
“On Saturday I thought he was splendid for us.”
A specialist left-back is high on O’Neill’s wishlist over the next 11 days and if Sunderland can address an area which has been a problem position for several years, the Wearsiders will be prepared to let Richardson leave.
Blackburn’s Martin Olsson and Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock have both been heavily touted for a move to Sunderland over the summer, while reports in the Croatian press have also linked the Black Cats with a £5million move for Croatia left-back Ivan Strinic.
Incomings rather than outgoings remain O’Neill’s overwhelming priorities, with Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson top of the Sunderland manager’s hitlist.
Spurs winger Danny Rose and Crystal Palace’s £9m-rated Wilfred Zaha have both been mentioned as possible alternatives to Johnson though and are likely to be contingency options if Sunderland miss out on their bid to land the Manchester City winger.
The Black Cats are thought to have made inquiries for the duo over the weekend, with Sunderland one of several clubs to have held a long-term interest in Zaha.
Meanwhile, Sunderland were also linked yesterday with out-of-favour Manchester United frontman Dimitar Berbatov.
O’Neill was reported to have contacted Sir Alex Ferguson over the Bulgarian, with Zenit St Petersburg also keeping tabs on the 31-year-old.
But Berbatov’s estimated £100,000-a-week wages immediately puts him out of Sunderland’s reaches unless United were willing to allow a heavily-subsidised loan move.