Sunderland are keeping tabs on promising Hartlepool United midfielder Josh Hawkes, the Echo understands.
The highly-rated 19-year-old has broken into the Pools first team picture this season, scoring on his full debut for the club in the recent win over Bromley.
The Black Cats are one of at least four clubs monitoring his progress, with Middlesbrough, Newcastle United and Leeds United also keen on the teenager.
The Echo has learned Sunderland were keen to see him play in a behind-closed doors game last month but Pools wouldn’t allow it.
Hawkes has another year left on his current deal with National League outfit Pools, who are in the process of being taken over by Teesside businessman Raj Singh.
The takeover deal is expected to be concluded imminently with Pools in a far stronger position than a few weeks ago when the club’s very future was in doubt.
Pools have also pulled themselves away from relegation danger in recent weeks, with Hawkes starting the last three games. The attacking midfielder, also comfortable in the No.10 role, has made seven appearances this season, scoring on his full debut in the 2-1 win over Bromley.
After that game, caretaker boss Matthew Bates said the sky was the limit for the youngster.
“He’s learning and for his age you won’t see a better player in the area,” said Bates. “His decision making was that of a senior player. He will stay grounded and have to react to the knocks.
“It’s up to him to go far and do it. He doesn’t doubt himself. I’ve been there myself as a young player, and he will get bumps along the way.”
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Pools defender Harrison Webster is reported to be wanted by Championship leaders Wolves, with Premier League sides Leicester City and West Ham United also linked. The teenager is yet to make a first team appearance but has been impressing for the youth team.