West Ham defender James Collins IS among Sam Allardyce’s top targets for the January transfer window, the Echo understands.
Since his arrival at the Stadium of Light two months ago, there has been speculation about Allardyce being reunited with several players from his West Ham days, including Collins, James Tomkins, Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan.
But the interest in Collins is genuine, with Allardyce eager to boost his scant central defensive options by bringing in the Welsh international next month.
The 32-year-old’s deal expires at West Ham at the end of the season and there has been little indication of extending his stint at the club.
That could see him available for a cut-price fee next month, with Sunderland cautious over shelling out big fees and long-term contracts when their Premier League status remains in such jeopardy.
Sunderland also still have one domestic loan available, with Allardyce primarily looking at loan deals, with a view to potential permanent moves at the end of the season. However, the injury situation at West Ham could be the main barrier towards any switch for Collins, with fellow centre-half Winston Reid one of a number of players on the treatment table after being ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring problem.
That led Collins to make his first Hammers appearance in more than a month, in last weekend’s stalemate against Stoke.
Saturday’s defeat against Watford has reinforced Sunderland’s need for another centre-half though after the absence of Younes Kaboul through illness forced Allardyce to use full-back Billy Jones as one of his back three, before scrapping that ploy just 19 minutes into the encounter.
Veteran centre-half Wes Brown - who returned to full training last week - wasn’t even on the bench against the Hornets, with continued question marks over the 36-year-old’s knee.
Collins is not the only defensive option Sunderland have been exploring, with Lorient’s Lamine Kone watched on a couple of occasions by the Black Cats, as reported last week.
Meanwhile, speculation in France has indicated that Norwich have made a £7million bid for FC Utrecht targetman Sebastien Haller.
Sunderland made a scouting mission to watch the French U21 international against Ajax last weekend after he has netted 10 goals in 15 games in the Dutch league this season.
Haller was previously on Sunderland’s radar during the summer, but the Black Cats opted against meeting Utrecht’s £6m asking price.
But they have continued to monitor the 21-year-old, although relegation rivals Norwich appear to have made the first move.