That’s according to Dave Seddon of the Lancashire Evening Post, who says that North End aren’t actively looking to offload the full-back.
Weekend reports linked the Black Cats with a swoop for Rafferty as they continue their hunt for defensive reinforcements – with the side desperately short of full-back options.
But what type of player is the 27-year-old, and what are the chances of a deal happening?
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We got the inside track from Preston reporter Seddon on the man reportedly being targeted by the Wearsiders...
Having come through the ranks at Liverpool, Rafferty began his senior career at Rochdale – before then heading to Deepdale in 2019.
His versatility has proven useful at both of his former clubs, and Seddon has shed some on light on the full-backs attributes.
Joe Rafferty is a right-back by trade, more of a defensive player rather than a full-back who gets high up the pitch,” he explained.
Rafferty is a right-back and has played there for much of his career, but two seasons again when Preston had a left-back shortage, he shifted across there. To be fair to him, some of his better performances have come on the left.
Sunderland will no doubt be looking for consistency in any of the defensive players they target this season, with the club’s defensive record in need of improvement.
But Seddon says last season was something of an ‘up and down’ for Rafferty – although that was also true of many of his teammates.
The early signs in pre-season this year have been encouraging, though.
“Like a lot of his Preston team-mates he was up and down in the first half of last season,” says Seddon.
"He had some solid displays but in the derby defeat to Blackburn got a red card before half-time.
"He missed the last eight games after fracturing two bones in his back.
"Rafferty has done fine in the opening couple of weeks of pre-season.
"In the 1-1 at St Johnstone last week, he played 79 minutes - the longest of any outfield player. He played both right wing-back and left wing-back there. At Celtic on Saturday, he came on after an hour and played at left wing-back.
THE CHANCES OF A DEAL
So what are the chances of a deal actually happening?
Initial reports had suggested that a loan move could be the likeliest option, but that is unlikely to appeal to Preston.
And they may take some convincing to sanction a permanent exit too – although Seddon says ‘much could change’ in the final weeks of the window.
“At this stage I'd doubt a loan deal would appeal to Preston,” he said.
"He's not a young lad who they want to get experience. They like his versatility.
"If Rafferty pushed for it and Sunderland offered a fee, they'd be tempted to sell - every player has his price.
"There's six or seven weeks of this transfer window left so much could change. But at the moment, Preston seem in no rush to let him go.”