Craig Gardner is being tracked by West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City as he heads for a summer exit from Sunderland.
Sunderland’s perilous Premier League position is the backdrop to complete overhaul of Gustavo Poyet’s squad this close season, and The Journal understands there have been no discussions with the former Aston Villa man about extending a contract which runs out in the summer. That is despite Gardner making a decent impact as a substitute in each of Sunderland’s last two matches, at Liverpool and at home to West Ham United on Monday.
Indeed Gardner could be set for a start at White Hart Lane on Monday as Poyet looks for more thrust from a midfield that has failed to make the impact that was required during two crucial matches. Both parties are understood to believe that it is time for a fresh start in the summer, with Sunderland looking to completely overhaul their midfield as part of Poyet’s ongoing plans to make the team play in accordance with his passing football philosophy.
Gardner is believed to be a target for two Midlands clubs, with West Brom set to look again at a player they made overtures towards in the January transfer window.
The Journal also understands that Premier League-bound Leicester are also keen to add the top-flight experience of Gardner to their squad.
Sunderland began planning for next season at the end of March and the appointment of Lee Congerton gave their summer plans a kick-start, but relegation would be a heavy blow to the Black Cats – who have several targets in place for next term already.
Poyet plans to integrate some of the squad’s younger players into first-team squad next season and is advocating plenty of player trading in the summer. Phil Bardsley may be the only one of the players out of contract in the summer whom they retain next season, regardless of which division they are in.
Negotiations with Jack Colback remain dead-locked while Sebastian Larsson has talked to Borussia Monchengladbach about a possible summer switch.
It remains to be seen what happens to Poyet’s signings, with Ignacio Scocco and Santiago Vergini both having mixed spells since their January moves to the North East.
Scocco’s performances have disappointed, with the Argentina striker clearly still coming to terms with English football. Poyet believes that in the long-term he will be a success in England but accepts that may not happen for a while.
“I don’t know how many good games we can get out of Nacho Scocco before the season ends,” Poyet said.
“I had hoped that the final 10 games of the season we would start seeing the best of him after he joined us in January.
“Now we’re into the last 10 games, we will have to see; maybe the last six.
“He joined us in what is the close season for him and it has been difficult for us at this stage to get him full match fitness and sharpness.”
The Sunderland boss says that January signing Scocco will get more chances between now and the end of the campaign.
“If you have paid a lot of money for a striker and he doesn’t scores goals – he gets noticed straight away,” he said.
“Scocco wants to play a part for us this and I’m going to look at him – depending to an extent upon Steven Fletcher’s availability.
“Scocco would love to play for us in the remaining games and I will look to give him his chance, if he is playing well.
“Hopefully we will start seeing what he can do by the end of the season.”