SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce wants to add West Brom flyer Graham Dorrans to his midfield as he plans another summer of improvement at the Stadium of Light.
Dorrans, 22, has been the Championship’s outstanding performer this season and Sunderland scouts were in attendance to watch the Scot in action at Reading in the FA Cup on Saturday with a view to a move at the end of the season.
The Black Cats know they face stiff competition for the central midfielder, who is attracting a host of Premier League attention and signed a new improved contract earlier in the season.
But they believe the lure of regular first-team football could convince him to turn away from the likes of Aston Villa, who are also tracking the man who began his career at Livingston.
The Baggies would not want to lose their star man but know that if they don’t get promoted this season they will have little choice but to cash in on a player signed for £100,000 in 2008.
A big enough offer may even be enough to tempt them if they go up.
Dorrans was signed by former Baggies boss Tony Mowbray and only made his debut in December last year, but his progress has been thrilling.
He has scored 12 goals this term and was the stand-out performer when West Brom visited Newcastle last month, again under the watching eyes of Sunderland scouts.
West Brom would want around £5million for the midfielder and, while that may seem steep for a player yet to play above Championship level, Bruce has already illustrated his willingness to pay big money for promising players with his pursuit of Adam
Johnson. Sunderland’s scouts rate Dorrans as a player of equivalent potential and the Scot has been added to the summer wish-list that Bruce has already begun working on with chief scout Ricky Sbragia.
With the Black Cats still in the thick of a relegation battle it may seem presumptuous for Bruce to be looking at ‘top-level signings’ – but Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has talked of planning for ‘three transfer windows in the future’ in the past.
And Sunderland’s horrific slump in form is not understood to have cooled the enthusiasm of owner Ellis Short, who will fund further captures at the end of the current campaign, provided Bruce raises funds through sales.
The Black Cats boss is prepared to sell Steed Malbranque to facilitate the reshaping of his midfield and may also listen to offers for Kieran Richardson, who despite flashes of inspiration is yet to fulfil his potential at Sunderland on a consistent basis.
After being impressed by the impact of former Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon since his January move, Bruce is prepared to dip into the Championship and cherry pick the best of the talent.
He is also watching Cardiff midfielder Peter Whittingham, who has scored an impressive 16 goals this season and can also play on the wing. The financially-troubled Bluebirds know they may have to sell him at the end of the campaign and he is a long-standing Bruce target.
The Sunderland boss is also monitoring Nathaniel Clyne, Crystal Palace’s young right-back, but would prefer to keep Alan Hutton – who has been impressive since joining on loan from Spurs.
Meanwhile, Bruce is hoping for positive news on the injury front this week as he prepares for a daunting trip to face Arsenal on Saturday.
Sunderland are expecting to hear the extent of Jordan Henderson’s knee injury in the early part of the week and are looking to Richardson to return and partner Lorik Cana in the centre of midfield at the Emirates.
Andy Reid, Lee Cattermole and David Meyler are all missing, while Malbranque is a doubt after suffering a musculoskeletal injury during the Portsmouth draw.