Jack Ross would ‘love’ to make Paddy McNair a key player in his revamped Sunderland team, but admits that he will make contingency plans in case the 23-year-old moves on.
McNair is the subject of fierce interest from clubs in the Championship and the Premier League, with a £2 million bid from Brighton & Hove Albion turned down.
There have been bids from other clubs, however, with Wolverhampton Wanderers the latest side to be linked with a swoop.
McNair returned from a number of injury problems to impress towards the end of last season, scoring four goals in five games despite Sunderland’s relegation to League One.
He has also been in good form on international duty since the end of the season.
Ross, who is currently assessing potential transfer targets for the club’s rebuild, says that he has to be ‘realistic’ about the situation.
He said: “I have a real appreciation of how good a player he is. That comes from what I’ve watched but also the people I know well in the Northern Ireland set-up and the conversations I’ve had with them.
“In a perfect world I’d love to have him in my squad and team next year and he would be an integral part of that but equally, I’m not naive and know that he’s a player who will be attractive to teams further up the football ladder than us at the movement.
“That’s always a consideration for a player and that will be something that the player and club will decide over the coming period,” he added.
“Certainly from a football point of view as a manager I think it goes without saying that I’d love to have him in my squad. Realistically, I have to plan for both scenarios because you never know, and I know like most players they are keen to play as high as they can. We are where we are in terms of league position and that’s something we have to be realistic about as well.”
Chairman Stewart Donald last week rejected suggestions that a deal with Brighton was close and said that other clubs were closer to his valuation for the player.
He also said that he hoped McNair would stay on Wearside.
Donald wrote on twitter: “I have not heard from Brighton since turning down their offer.
“I don’t want to hear from them would prefer Paddy stay.
“Also there are other clubs that are closer to our valuation than Brighton so I’m not sure where that story has come from. We will see.”
The player himself admitted at the start of this month that a Premier League move would be ‘great’.
Speaking on international duty, he said;“I love playing for Michael because he gives me so much confidence. I’ve learned a lot off him since I first came into the squad and I think I’ve definitely improved.
“If I can get back to the Premier League, that would be great, but I just want to concentrate on these Northern Ireland games and look at that afterwards.”