MARTIN O’Neill is edging closer to the signing of Wolves striker Steven Fletcher and is still in the chase for unsettled Manchester City winger Adam Johnson.
Sunderland have been encouraged by increasing pressure in the Wolves camp to make progress on deals which should see Fletcher and Matt Jarvis make immediate returns to the Premier League.
Meanwhile, Johnson is refusing to rule out a return to Wearside as he ponders other offers from Spurs and Liverpool.
It is on the Fletcher front, though, that most progress is being made.
Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey is renowned for his poker-player brilliance when it comes to transfer sales – only three players have left the club during his time in charge for less money than was originally paid for them.
He has made good profits on several players – and getting close to £10m for Jarvis, (original cost £700,000 from Gillingham), and £13m for Fletcher (£7m from Burnley) would be more good business.
Moxey wants more for Jarvis from West Ham, who have said they will not increase their bid, and more from Sunderland for Fletcher. And Moxey has been bullish in his comments about the club’s readiness to hang on to both, last week effectively telling Sunderland to put up or shut up when it came to meeting the club’s £15m asking price for the Scottish forward.
But there appears to be a growing sense at Molineux that the club needs to move on, and keeping players desperate to leave will be counter-productive while also depriving new boss Stale Solbakken of valuable transfer funds.
The Norwegian has already commented on the unhealthiness in the camp caused by uncertainty over the future, and star players’ desire to leave.
And that has been seen by some as a contributory factor in Wolves’ 1-0 defeat to Leeds at the weekend.
Sunderland’s hand has been strengthened too by the arrival of Louis Saha and the team’s superb draw at Arsenal.
And the Echo understands that Wolves are showing signs of easing their hard-line stance over Fletcher’s potential move.
As far as Johnson is concerned, Sunderland are fighting hard, fully aware that rivals Liverpool and Spurs have the advantage when it comes to tradition, league position and potential to win silverware.
But no news is good news on that front. It means Johnson has not been blown away by the draw of going to either of the elite clubs.
And with Sunderland ready to offer him almost guaranteed first-team football, meet his wage demands and convince him of the club’s ambitious plans for the future, the Black Cats are keeping their fingers crossed they will win the chase for a player who would hugely improve the Wearsiders’ attacking options.
Manchester City are already planning for life without Johnson, having targeted Swansea City winger Scott Sinclair.
Swansea’s first-team coach Alan Curtis said of the 23-year-old: “He’s not really interested in signing a new contract and I think Man City have made a bid, so it’s just a matter of time now before it happens and it’s good for both parties.”