SUNDERLAND have missed out on one of their top summer targets after Swansea City defender Ashley Williams agreed a new deal with the Welsh club.
The Swans skipper was set to enter the last year of his contract and Sunderland heard coach Gus Poyet and Sporting Director Lee Congerton had been keen to lure him to the Stadium of Light.
But yesterday those hopes were dashed when the 29-year-old agreed an improved four-year deal with the club which keeps him at the Liberty Stadium until 2018.
That development has caused real disappointment at Sunderland with Williams one of the summer’s major targets for the Wearsiders.
An initial offer of £4m had already been made by Sunderland and turned down by Swansea but the Black Cats were prepared to go higher after being led to believe that Williams was ready to leave the club where he had spent the last six years.
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins kept lines of communication open with Williams and his representative, Jamie Moralee, hoping to retain the services of one of the club’s key players.
But Sunderland had been quietly hopeful that Williams would move to Wearside before the situation changed late on and news of the new deal emerged.
Williams announced: “I’m delighted to sign a new contract at Swansea City.
“I’ve enjoyed fantastic success at this club and I want to keep helping Swansea City progress.”
It means the Swans have won a high-stakes battle to keep hold of one of their star players against serious pressure from Premier League rivals Sunderland.
The Welsh outfit hoped an emotional attachment to the club and a much-improved contract would do the trick and Williams and his representative have secured the lucrative deal they were hoping for.
But Sunderland will be rueful that Williams has not signed for Sunderland after several times believing a deal looked on.
Now the Black Cats will move on quickly.
Although Williams was a Plan A player, Sunderland will now look for a centre-half of the same calibre, rather than dropping down to Plan B selections at this stage.
So far Sunderland have not paid out money on a transfer fee but the three Bosman signings they have been made - Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez - look like excellent bits of business.
Work continues to try and attract former loan players Marcos Alonso and Santiago Vergini back to the Stadium of Light but the club has accepted that it is unlikely that Liverpool striker Fabio Borini will be made available, either on loan or as a permanent signing, at this stage.