Sunderland eye centre-half and striker after Sam Allardyce scouting trips

Lamine Kone

Lamine Kone

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Sam Allardyce has been checking on potential transfer targets in the flesh, with a centre-half and centre-forward at the top of Sunderland’s January hit-list.

Allardyce spent the first half of this week on overseas scouting missions, as he looks to unearth players who will make a difference towards Sunderland’s bid to remain in the Premier League.

I’ve been looking at players more this week than others

Sam Allardyce

The Echo understands that Allardyce is unlikely to bring in a host of fresh faces in the upcoming transfer window, despite Sunderland’s precarious position in the relegation dogfight.

But a new central defender and centre-forward are priorities for Allardyce next month – evidenced by the players Sunderland have been looking at over recent weeks.

With continuing question marks over Wes Brown’s fitness, Allardyce has only three senior centre-halves currently at his disposal, with an illness to Sebastian Coates likely to see the Sunderland boss switch to a 4-3-3 formation at Chelsea tomorrow.

West Ham’s James Collins and Lorient’s Lamine Kone are both under consideration by Allardyce after he watched the latter in action against PSG last month.

Kone is keen to move to the Premier League, with Lorient ready to let him leave, albeit the French side weren’t commenting on the Ivory Coast international’s future yesterday.

Allardyce admits he’s a target, although he denied reports in France that Sunderland have already agreed a fee with the Ligue 1 outfit.

“We hear he’s available and because I’ve watched him, it apparently means I’m going to sign him,” said Allardyce.

“There’s no offers or conversations with Lorient at this moment of time.”

Sunderland have also been looking at centre-forwards, with QPR’s Charlie Austin and Utrecht’s Sebastien Haller among those who have been watched by the club over recent weeks.

Utrecht confirmed earlier this week that they were in talks with overseas clubs – thought to be Sunderland and Norwich – over Haller’s departure after the 21-year-old has netted 10 goals in 15 games in the Dutch league this season.

Allardyce added: “I’ve been looking at players more this week than others. I’ve been out and about looking at them.”