SUNDERLAND have had a bid accepted for Ipswich Town star Connor Wickham and are now pushing for talks with the exciting young striker.
The Black Cats have been bold in their pursuit of one of the hottest talents in football in recent days and have stolen a march on rivals Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs with the swiftness with which they agreed a price with the Tractor Boys.
But now the race is on to tie up the England Under 21 forward’s signature ahead of potential bids coming in from the Premier League big guns.
Several media sources claim that figure is in the region of £13m, although neither club is commenting on the figure.
Either way, the deal is on, with Ipswich ready to accept Sunderland’s offer and allow the player to speak to the Black Cats.
But Sunderland will have to work quickly to persuade Wickham his future lies on Wearside.
Chairman Niall Quinn and manager Steve Bruce will pull out all the stops to convince the youngster the Stadium of Light is the right choice for him, with Bruce a long-term admirer of the forward.
What remains to be seen is whether Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs or other clubs come in for the starlet now that a fee has been agreed.
Sunderland have made it clear from the start how much they want to sign the precocious 18-year-old, while other clubs have simply registered an interest in the player ahead of a potential future offer.
And Ipswich, who are desperately keen to complete the rebuilding begun with the summer signing’s of strikers Nathan Ellington and Michael Chopra, have resolved to get a sale agreed as quickly as possible so they can go into the transfer market again themselves.
Ipswich boss Paul Jewell is adept at building promotion-winning sides and while he would have wanted to have held on to Wickham in an ideal world, he knows the money he can get for the teenager is massive in Championship terms and will allow him to create a squad he knows will be strong enough to mount an automatic promotion challenge.
In many ways, Jewell finds himself in much the same situation as Bruce did with Jordan Henderson and has reached the same conclusion – sacrifice the young star so that the squad as a whole will significantly benefit.
Sunderland have been dogged in their efforts to get Wickham, going back to the table several times to up their initial offer and over the weekend Ipswich finally came back and said that the Wearsiders had reached a figure they were prepared to accept.
Liverpool – the team Wickham supported as a boy – and are believed to be his firs-choice for a move and the Reds are believed to be interested – but they
have already acquired Henderson for approaching £20m are currently tied up with potential moves for Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Aaron Lennon.