Dan deal as Cats trio sign up

SUNDERLAND have secured the services of three young academy products, including breakthrough defender Dan Smith.

Smith, Northern Ireland goalkeeper Trevor Carson and Hartlepool-born defender Peter Hartley have all signed new one-year contracts at the Stadium of Light.

But there is no news yet on whether Grant Leadbitter will commit his future to the club. He is out of contract tomorrow and continues to train with the Wearsiders.

Smith broke into Sunderland's first team under Mick McCarthy's management last season.

But it was a headline-grabbing start for the Sunderland-born teenager, who became the first player to be sent off on his debut for the club – getting his marching orders for two yellow cards in the 1-0 Carling Cup home win over Cheltenham Town in September.

The 19-year-old – who also had a loan spell with Huddersfield Town – went on to make four more appearances, one in the Carling Cup and three in the Premiership.

But his season was to end in controversy with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger harshly claiming the left-footer had deliberately fouled Abu Diaby, who suffered a broken leg in the Gunners' 3-0 May 1 win on Wearside.

He is delighted to know he will be staying on Wearside.

Smith said: "It's great to sign and get it all done and dusted. We have been in talks over the summer and it was agreed when I was on holiday. If there was a chance to stay I wanted to take it.

"I grew up in Sunderland, I supported the club - I know all about it.

"The experience I got last season was brilliant, especially when I was at Huddersfield. I played eight or nine games there and I felt I really came on as a player.

"They wanted to keep me, but Kevin Ball asked me to come back. I was glad that I did because a got a chance in the Premier League.

"I only played a few games, but it was a massive thing for me. Playing at that level boosts your confidence and it will do me good next season.

"I've got to push on and try to get in the starting 11, or at least be in the squad every week.

"We have a good young squad here. Most of the players are under-25 and it is good for the future of the club."

Eighteen-year-old Northern Ireland Under-18 international goalkeeper Carson, from Downpatrick, made the step up to reserves football the season before last at the age of only 16.

He has signed a professional contract, as well as centre-back Hartley, who made his reserves debut last season.

It remains to be seen what happens with Leadbitter, who has previously refused two offers that have been tabled.

His agent Ian Elliott said earlier this month that Sunderland were undervaluing the 20-year-old, who made 12 Premiership appearances last season after a successful loan spell with Rotherham United.

*Sunderland defender Steve Caldwell has been cleared to continue pre-season training after having a scan on the knee he injured in the closing game of last season, at Aston Villa.

The centre-back was feeling slight pain in the joint, but Black Cats' physio Pete Friar said: "The scan has shown that everything is fine. There is just slight inflammation on the knee and it should settle down after a couple of days."

*Today is the last of Bob Murray's 20-year reign as Sunderland chairman.

He steps down as a consortium led by former Sunderland and Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn prepares to table a formal 10million offer for the club, which would pave the way for a takeover to be completed before the start of the new season.

The offer to all shareholders is expected to be made on Monday.

SUNDERLAND'S first home game of the season against Birmingham has been switched to Wednesday, August 9, at 7.45pm.