Sunderland close in on £5 million Craig Gardner

Birmingham City's Craig Gardner celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match at St Andrews, Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 16, 2011. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial print use only except with prior written approval. New media use requires licence from Football DataCo Ltd. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions for full restrictions.
Birmingham City's Craig Gardner celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match at St Andrews, Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 16, 2011. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial print use only except with prior written approval. New media use requires licence from Football DataCo Ltd. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions for full restrictions.
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SUNDERLAND have made a dramatic breakthrough in their bid to sign Birmingham City’s goalscoring midfielder Craig Gardner.

The Echo understands that the Blues have made a swift decision to look favourably on firm bid – believed to be £5m – submitted earlier this week by the Black Cats.

And with City deciding to avoid a lengthy bidding war for their star player in favour of a quick sale, the way is open for the Wearsiders to make swift progress towards concluding the player’s signing.

It is positive news for manager Steve Bruce, who is on a mission to increase the goal output from midfield – 24-year-old Gardner scored 10 times from the middle of the park in a struggling side last season.

There’s no doubt that the boyhood Birmingham fan is his club’s prize asset. But with City facing financial meltdown following their relegation, the club has decided it needs money up front right now and is prepared to accept an immediate firm offer rather than let the situation drag on for months.

Birmingham are believed to be facing massive financial difficulties, with owner Carson Yeung rumoured to be mortgaging properties last season in order to finance Birmingham – and that was BEFORE relegation!

Sunderland indicated their interest in Gardner to Birmingham earlier this month but only made a solid bid this week.

The appointment of new City manager Chris Hughton this week is a happy coincidence for Sunderland, having helped speed up the process.

The former Newcastle manager enjoys a good relationship with Steve Bruce and that friendship has allowed for talks to be handled on a very straightforward basis.

It concludes an excellent week of progress in the transfer market with the signings of Bosmans Keiren Westwood and Seb Larsson, and with South Korean striker Ji Dong-won expected to complete his move to Wearside in the next few days.