SUNDERLAND are ready to battle all rivals for the signature of Ipswich Town wonderkid Connor Wickham this summer.
The Black Cats have submitted an offer worth £10m to the Tractor Boys for the 18-year-old stiker (right) and are determined to push all the way for a player who has been strongly tipped to join one of the Premier League giants.
Liverpool are rumoured to be stirring themselves into action for a player who was a boyhood Anfield fan. Arsenal, too, are said to be looking closely at the player’s situation.
But Sunderland have nailed their colours to the mast with a firm offer for the player, an offer now improved to £10m, and will continue to match the big boys stride for stride for the player, should he leave Portman Road this summer.
Ipswich fans idolise the 6ft 2ins striker and allowing him to leave would not be good for morale.
But manager Paul Jewell is committed to overhauling his side, having already brought in two new strikers in Michael Chopra and Nathan Ellington, and knows the sale of Wickham would fund an ambitious round of signings he feels would give his side a great chance of promotion next season.
Wickham is believed to favour a move to Liverpool but it is still unclear whether the Reds will move for the teenager.
Having already spent massively in the January transfer window on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, they have brought in the Black Cats’ Jordan Henderson for £20m in the current window, while continuing pursuits of Aston Villa’s Stewart Downing and Blackpool’s Charlie Adam.
Liverpool have also been linked with several other strikers and a move for Wickham might not necessarily arise.
If it does, the Reds might look to get the young striker on the cheap, knowing of his attraction to Anfield.
But that’s where Sunderland would look to steal a march – matching their desire to sign the England Under 21 man with the sort of bid which would appeal to Ipswich.
Sunderland’s readiness to put attractive offers on the table is set to see them make progress with Manchester United trio Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Darron Gibson.
Having got over the first hurdle in agreeing a £12m fee for the three with Manchester United, Sunderland have now agreed on personal terms with the players’ agents after talks held with Steve Bruce in Portugal.
Now it only remains to be seen whether the players themselves want the moves to the North East – Gibson is understood to be up for the move while O’Shea and Brown are still mulling their moves over.
Less progress has been made with other targets, Wigan winger Charles N’Zogbia and Liverpool’s David Ngog.
Ngog has contractual issues to resolve with the Merseyside club involving pay, while N’Zogbia’s initial pay demands are a sticking point for the Wearsiders as they look to decrease rather than increase their wage bill.
Other irons in the fire include Blackpool’s out-of-contract midfielder David Vaughan and Birmingham City midfielder Craig Gardner.
But it is Wickam who is Sunderland’s primary target at this moment and the club has signalled it will be hard to beat in terms of transfer fees being offered.