SUNDERLAND have made a £5million bid for Birmingham City’s goalscoring midfielder Craig Gardner.
The Echo can confirm that the 24-year-old is a major summer target for the Black Cats and the club will look to push the move ahead as quickly as possible, hoping a cash-up-front offer will tempt the hard-up Blues.
Birmingham are believed to be cash-strapped in the wake of their demotion from the Premier League last month and a massive rebuilding programme is planned at St Andrew’s, which includes the sales of many of their star players and high earners.
Gardner is among their prize assets and City – who saw boss Alex McLeish quit at the weekend – would hope to get near double Sunderland’s offer for one of their prize assets.
But the Wearsiders are pinning their hopes on the fact that a cash on the nose offer will be just too tempting for a club looking to instantly balance the books on their return to the Championship.
Gardner was City’s top scorer last season with 10 goals in all competitions from central midfield and the Black Cats see him as the man who could help take some of the goalscoring burden off the club’s frontmen.
A lack of goals from anywhere but the striker positions has been a continual headache for Steve Bruce in his first two seasons in charge and it is something he is determined to address this summer.
The expected arrival of Gardner’s Birmingham team-mate Seb Larsson and young Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson is expected to help in that direction.
But Bruce knows that Gardner’s ability to score regularly from central midfield is in a different league altogether and would provide exactly what Sunderland have lacked – with the likes of Steed Malbranque, Lee Cattermole, Ahmed Elmohamady and even Jordan Henderson all struggling to carry any sort of goal threat last season.
Birmingham will consider Sunderland’s offer but are likely to hold out for more money, especially with several other Premier League clubs, including Newcastle, reported to be interested.