Striker targets Sunderland first team as work continues to boost forward line

Joel Asoro. Picture by Frank Reid.
Joel Asoro. Picture by Frank Reid.
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Joel Asoro is targeting first-team football with Sunderland – as work continues to bolster the club’s attacking options.

Sunderland face Bury in their first friendly tonight without any senior strikers in the ranks, Duncan Watmore aside who is on his way back from a long-term knee injury.

Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini and Victor Anichebe departed this summer to leave the Black Cats woefully short of forwards as pre-season steps up a gear.

Work is ongoing behind the scenes to give Simon Grayson’s squad the necessary firepower ahead of the Championship, with the bulk of the budget set to be spent on new strikers.

Ahead of tonight’s game at Gigg Lane (7.30pm kick-off), Sunderland have completed one signing – Everton defender Brendan Galloway on a season-long loan deal.

Everton team-mates Tyias Browning and Aiden McGeady are expected to follow him to Wearside with both deals close.

Sunderland may have to be patient in their pursuit of adding firepower, but it remains the priority area.

Preston North End striker Jordan Hugill has been strongly linked with a reunion with his former boss, with West Ham’s goalscoring attacking midfielder Robert Snodgrass also reported to be on Grayson’s radar.

Brighton are also keen on Snodgrass and his £8million price tag is likely to prove a big stumbling block should Sunderland launch an ambitious bid to land him.

The summer business will also include free agents and further loan deals, while the club’s younger players will be given every opportunity to impress – starting at Bury.

Asoro, linked with Arsenal, is among those hoping to catch the eye, but the 18-year-old is under no illusions as to the challenge ahead.

“You have to show that you are good enough,” said Asoro, when asked whether relegation could lead to more first-team chances for the youngsters.

“Long-term, my ambition is to start in the first team and become a regular player.

“Everybody wants to be involved in the first team, of course, but the first thing you need to do is perform for the Under-23s.

“If you do, then you may catch the eye.

“We trained with the first team regularly last season so they are aware of us.”

Former Sunderland Academy product Jordan Pickford – who has joined Everton in a £30million deal – and Watmore are two inspirations for Asoro, while George Honeyman also broke into the first team towards the end of last season.

“They are all an inspiration, definitely,” added Asoro.

“Because then you feel like you can achieve that too, provided you keep working hard.

“That’s what it comes down to, working hard.

“The game goes quick, you need to be ready to perform.”