SUNDERLAND are in talks with Spurs midfielder Tom Huddlestone about a long-term move to the Stadium of Light.
The 26-year-old is unsettled at Tottenham because of his lack of first-team opportunities at White Hart Lane.
And boss Andre Villas-Boas is willing to sell as he looks to raise funds to build a side capable of beating the big guns to Champions League qualification in the new season.
Huddlestone, under contract until 2015, is believed to be available for around £4-5m and Sunderland would have no problem with that fee.
But former Black Cats boss Steve Bruce is also interested in the four-times capped Huddlestone and is hoping to gazump the deal.
Bruce’s Hull City made contact with Huddlestone’s representatives this week.
But Sunderland are further down the line, having already held talks, and will hope to seal a deal regardless of Hull’s late interest.
The last club to attempt to sign Huddlestone were Fulham, as recently as the January transfer window this year, but Spurs were reluctant to sell at the time because of an injury to Brazilian star Sandro.
Fulham boss Martin Jol knows all about the player having signed him in 2005 when he was Spurs manager, but he has not come back in for him so far this summer.
There’s no doubt that a fit and in-form Huddlestone would be a tremendous addition to Sunderland’s squad.
And the ball-playing midfielder with a fearsome shot would expect to be a first-team regular if he signed.
The one area of concern about a player who made his league debut for Derby at the age of 16, in 2003-04, would be his injury record.
The 6ft 3in powerhouse made just four appearances in the 2011-12 season after suffering a succession of injuries.
Last season, though he made 29 appearances and was fit enough to have played more only to lose out as other team-mates were preferred.
That led to Huddlestone admitting he would have to consider his future this summer.
“At times, you think you might need to move,” he said.
“I am 26 now and missed a year to 18 months through injury.
“You just want to play every game and if that opportunity is not at Tottenham, then I will have to look elsewhere.”
Sunderland’s interest is a positive sign for supporters, regardless of whether it pays off or not, in a way.
After the first part of the close season being spent on the acquisition of Bosman signings and young prospects, the Black Cats’ interest in Huddlestone at least shows Sunderland are also looking at quality players of proven pedigree as well as youthful players of potential.