DARYL Murphy will be the first player to leave Sunderland in the January transfer window with Cardiff leading the chase for the £1m-rated striker.
Murphy came in from the cold to make his first start of the season for the injury-ravaged Black Cats in Monday’s draw at Blackburn and is likely to play again in the FA Cup third round tie with Barrow on Saturday.
But his unlikely return to the first-team fray will not resurrect his Sunderland career – and The Journal has learned that Steve Bruce has already sanctioned his exit “sooner rather than later”.
Murphy is being tracked by up to six clubs, with Championship sides Queen’s Park Rangers, Ipswich Town and Cardiff City at the head of the pack. Hull City – who were close to signing the Republic of Ireland forward in the summer – are also understood to be interested, while he is also among a number of back-up options being considered by Stoke City if they manage to sell the unsettled James Beattie during the transfer window.
Sunderland are expecting to receive in the region of £1m for the striker – which is about £1m down on the fee they were asking for him 12 months ago. But they expect to bank the money quickly, with sources close to Murphy
indicating that he expects to be at a new club within the first couple of weeks of January.
It will clear the way for further squad strengthening for Bruce, who has been given substantial funds to add a couple of defenders, a midfielder and at least one forward as back-up to first-choice duo Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent.
Although losing Murphy will leave Sunderland light on options up front, recalling Martyn Waghorn from Leicester City is another option for Bruce. The Black Cats boss previously indicated his intention to keep the teenager at the Walkers Stadium but a succession of suspensions and injuries have left Sunderland down to the bare bones.
Murphy will be glad to leave the Stadium of Light after finding his chances of first team football virtually non-existent since Bruce took over.
He was close to leaving three times in the summer when Ipswich, Hull and Wolves all made moves to sign him and was expecting to leave on loan during the first half of the season. Bruce opted to keep him on Wearside, however, as a precaution against an injury crisis which subsequently materialised.
The Sunderland boss has operated with a small squad since taking over but has a clutch of players who he does not believe are up to regular first team football in the Premier League and Scottish defender Russell Anderson is another likely to leave. Burnley may renew their interest in the defender but he will definitely not be leaving for Hibernian, who moved to deny reports a move was imminent. Meanwhile, John Mensah has spoken of his “worry” over a succession of injuries that have ruined the first few months of his move to England.
The Ghana defender missed Monday’s game at Ewood Park with a hamstring injury – his last game before signing off for the African Cup of Nations. “I am happy to be with Sunderland, but I am very sad that I have not been able to play because of injuries,” he said.
“I don’t understand why I have had so many injuries.”