'Really like': What Southampton boss just said about Ross Stewart and his striker situation

Russell Martin has been discussing the latest with Ross Stewart and Che Adams
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Russell Martin has refused to be drawn on a possible move for Sunderland striker Ross Stewart, but has also hinted that the club could sign a new striker even if Che Adams does not depart before the end of the transfer window.

The Echo understands that Saints have stepped up their interest in Stewart ahead of the window closing, with the striker closing in on a return to fitness and with no progress made on a potential new contract at the Stadium of Light.

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Though no deal has been agreed at this stage, there is an expectation from those close to the deal that Martin's side are prepared to make a bid that will see Sunderland sanction the 27-year-old's departure from the club.

Stewart is open to the move given the slow progress on any new deal, with less than a year to run on the contract that brought him to Wearside from Ross County.

The Scot turned down a move to Martin's MK Dons at that point, and it is clear that the new Southampton head coach has kept a close eye on his progress.

At this stage, though, he had no update to give as he underwent his pre-match press conference duties for a trip, coincidentally, to face Sunderland this weekend.

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"I really like Ross, I tried to sign him at MK Dons," Martin said when asked about the interest in Stewart.

"I really liked him then and he's go on to do brilliantly at Sunderland.

"He's been out for a while. We're going to be linked with so many players. Some of those are so far away that we haven't even discussed, and some of them are really close to the mark and some of them we'll probably end up bringing in.

"Ross is one of a number that we've been linked with, and again, we'll just have to wait and see [what happens]."

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Martin confirmed that he expects the club to be active before the window shuts at 11pm on Friday night, but is not yet sure whether that will mean Adams departing.

Everton had a strong interest in the 27-year-old but couldn't agree a fee, and have since signed Udinese striker Beto. Crystal Palace, however, are one of a number of clubs still monitoring the striker.

He may not necessarily have to leave for other deals to progress, though it would very clearly accelerate them.

"He's trained really well, he trained separately from us for one day which everyone knows about, unfortunately," Martin said this afternoon.

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"He's trained brilliantly this week, though, he's a brilliant character as I've said throughout. There's three scenarios, really.

"One is that we keep Che and everyone is happy. One is that we lose Che and we replace him, and the other is that we keep Che and maybe add someone else, as well. Whatever happens, we'll be OK.

"That's it, really, I can't be anymore open or transparent [than that].

"I don't think anything has advanced since we last spoke. The club that came in has gone away, maybe some other clubs will come to the table at some point.

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"Until then... he's trained really well and he's really focused. If he's here [on Saturday], he will be 100% be involved."

Sunderland are hoping to sign Ukrainian striker Nazariy Rusyn but Stewart's departure would seem them look to recruit again in the striking position.

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