Sunderland boss will keep an eye on the Irish market in transfer search

Sunderland manager Simon Grayson
Sunderland manager Simon Grayson
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Sunderland are to step up the push for new signings – and Simon Grayson hasn’t ruled out a summer raid on the Irish league given his previous success.

Players with Championship experience are the priority, but no stone will be left unturned – with Grayson keen to build on a reputation for unearthing hidden gems.

Grayson is aiming to make quick inroads in the transfer market and has held in-depth discussions with chief executive Martin Bain.

Grayson was coy over links to £2million-rated Everton wideman Aiden McGeady, with Preston North End keen to see his return on loan, while Middlesbrough are also interested.

Sunderland also face a strong battle should they firm up their interest in Preston striker Jordan Hugill with several Championship clubs tracking him.

The Lilywhites have already lost their manager and assistant to Sunderland and a key reason Grayson appealed was due to the squad he built at Preston, assembled for little but with significantly greater sell-on value.

Sourced mainly from the lower leagues of the UK, Preston also signed several players from the League of Ireland and now boast the strongest Irish contingent in the Football League.

Grayson told the Echo: “It is a possibility [the Irish League], we’ll be looking at all areas of the British Isles really.

“I’ve had many players who other clubs didn’t fancy, worked with them, developed them, I like to spend time on the grass, get amongst it and coach.

“I’ll take training most days, I take a great deal of satisfaction from buying players for say £20,000 then one day you get a bid of £2.5million and you turn it down.

“It has been like that a lot over the last two or three years.”

Irishman Kevin O’Connor signed for Preston last week from Cork City to become the fourth player North End have recruited from the League of Ireland in the last six months.

Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle and Sean Maguire are the other three, while Alan Browne, Greg Cunningham and Eoin Doyle are also on the books.

Scouring the League of Ireland is one avenue for Grayson, who is fully aware of the need to bolster numbers, especially up front with Duncan Watmore and youngsters Joel Asoro and Josh Maja the only recognised forwards.

Ahead of the club’s opening pre-season friendly at Bury on Friday, Grayson joked: “This week, recruitment is a big factor or we will be playing our first pre-season friendly at Bury with a five-a-side team!

“This club is an attractive proposition for any player and we are looking forward to recruiting very well.

“I think the squad is obviously short in numbers in certain areas, we’ll be working hard to add to that quickly.

“There are some talented players here, though, players who have played in the Championship and some Premier League players.

“So there’s decent quality,” added Grayson, who is at a training camp in Austria with the Sunderland squad.

Sunderland had also been linked with a late £1.5million move for Norwich midfielder Graham Dorrans but Scottish club Rangers are closing in on the boyhood Rangers fan.