SUNDERLAND are the first club to have shown their hand in the chase for Steven Fletcher after submitting a bid for the Wolves striker.
Martin O’Neill’s summer-long pursuit of Fletcher moved a step closer to a resolution last night after Sunderland tabled a formal offer for the 25-year-old, said to be close to Wolves’ £10million asking price.
The Echo understands that Sunderland are the only outfit to have actually made a bid for Fletcher, despite Wolves receiving enquiries from both Fulham and Stoke for the Scottish hitman.
And O’Neill will hope that by moving ahead of their Premier League rivals, Sunderland will have the edge in landing one of his principal summer targets.
Wolves are not necessarily resolved to losing Fletcher and privately still harbour hopes of keeping the former Hibs and Burnley striker at Molineux.
But there is also a realisation that a double figures bid would be tough to turn down after suffering relegation from the Premier League last season.
O’Neill has so far been frustrated in the transfer window after making just one signing – Bosman arrival Carlos Cuellar – and missing out on Blackburn winger Junior Hoilett, who completed a move to big-spending QPR last week.
But without naming Fletcher, O’Neill confirmed to the Echo at the end of last week that Sunderland had made offers for players and were attempting to negotiate fees for those on his wishlist.
O’Neill said: “We are just waiting because there are prices to be negotiated and these days it takes a long time. It tends to drag on.”
Fletcher, who missed Wolves’ pre-season win over Walsall on Saturday through injury, has been well aware of Sunderland’s interest and is thought to be interested in a move to the Stadium of Light.
But he has kept an open mind over his future, knowing that his chances of remaining in the Premier League depend on Wolves receiving an acceptable bid for his services.
The eight-capped Scotland international, who cost Wolves almost £7million two years ago, holds obvious appeal for Sunderland after notching 12 league goals last season for the top flight’s basement boys.
O’Neill has made no secret of his desire to bring further firepower to the Stadium of Light after the departure of loanee Nicklas Bendtner and permanent exit of Asamoah Gyan during the summer.
Rookie strikers Connor Wickham, Ryan Noble and Ji Dong-won are all under 21, leaving Fraizer Campbell and Stephane Sessegnon as the only frontmen at O’Neill’s disposal with significant Premier League experience.