Sunderland have stepped up their efforts to land Aston Villa striker Ross McCormack with the Black Cats hoping to sign him on a loan deal.
Simon Grayson has identified the striker as a key target this summer, as revealed by the Echo earlier this month, with Sunderland hoping to strike a loan arrangement.
Villa are understood to prefer a permanent deal but are open to a loan arrangement to get McCormack off their wage bill.
Money is tight at the Stadium of Light and a loan deal would best suit the Sunderland hierarchy with fresh reports in the Midlands suggesting talks have opened between the two clubs.
Sunderland have so far signed James Vaughan from League One Bury for £500,000 but further forwards are needed after the departures of Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini and Victor Anichebe from the Stadium of Light this summer.
Sunderland's hopes of landing McCormack were boosted at the weekend after he - and fellow Sunderland target Tommy Elphick - were left out of Villa's squad for pre-season games in Germany.
McCormack, 30, had until then been a part of the pre-season programme but his future was thrown into fresh doubt.
Grayson is a fan of the Scotland international, who enjoyed a successful spell under the Black Cats boss while at Leeds United.
McCormack endured a torrid first season at Villa Park following a £12million move from Fulham with the striker having a very public falling out with manager Steve Bruce last season, and despite making up with Bruce, the Villains big money capture is available this summer.
Defender Elphick has also been strongly linked with a move to Birmingham City.
Elphick, who was signed last summer by former Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo, is expected to leave Villa Park this summer following the signing of John Terry.