SUNDERLAND are hoping interest from his former club allows them to cut their losses on striker Ji Dong-Won.
The South Korean is one of a host of players Martin O’Neill would like to move on in January – but only if he can get players in to replace them. Bringing some money in will be an essential part of that process. Chairman Ellis Short has this week been leading the charge for Premier League clubs to control their spending, and will practise what he preaches in the New Year.
The Texan owner sanctioned an outlay of £22m on Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson in August, and will be reluctant to sanction another hefty outlay next month without some money coming the other way.
At the same time, manager O’Neill is acutely aware his squad is not big enough to cope with the demands of Premier League football, and as he put it at the weekend “we want to try and strengthen if at all possible rather than let players go.” That said, there are players in his squad O’Neill has little faith in, or who are seen as a drain on resources.
Fraizer Campbell has been interesting Championship clubs – most notably former side Hull City and hometown club Huddersfield Town – all season, but his wages have made a move difficult. Although he scored a consolation goal in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United, it was Campbell’s first since February 1 and he has not started a game since the opening day of the season at Arsenal.
Given the opportunity to say Campbell had a long-term future at the Stadium of Light after his weekend header, O’Neil would only commit himself to: “We will need Fraizer around here between now and New Year for a start.”
Titus Bramble is another player Sunderland would ideally like off the wage bill in January, with Queens Park Rangers reportedly interested in the central defender. But with only half a year left on his contract, he would not command a big fee.
More worryingly for Sunderland, Danny Rose’s former manager Harry Redknapp is also thought to be interested in signing the left-back, and with a recall clause in his contract, they would be unable to stop Tottenham Hotspur taking him back, then selling him to QPR.
Sunderland paid Chunnam Dragons £2.5m for Ji 18 months ago. He has only repaid them with two goals, albeit against Chelsea and Manchester City.
And despite the Black Cats’ obvious failings in front of goal, the 21-year-old has not featured this season. Neither Connor Wickham nor Louis Saha has found the net for Sunderland in 2012-13, but both are clearly ahead of Ji in the pecking order for strikers at the Stadium of Light.
The South Korea international has not even made the bench since September’s League Cup win over Milton Keynes Dons, only his third call-up to the match day squad all season.
Ji made two starts in his debut campaign, and came off the bench 19 times.
The Dragons are interested in taking Ji back, and are thought to have made an opening offer of £1.1m.
With Bundesliga side Augsburg’s sporting director Jürgen Rollman describing the forward in November as “a very interesting player”, Sunderland will hope to play the two sides off against one another to push the price up to much nearer what they paid.
Indeed, when Augsburg first made their interest known, O’Neill was careful to point out “they are not the only club who want to take him”.
Sunderland have sold their entire allocation of tickets for their first trip to Southampton in five years. The travel problems in reaching the south coast on the Saturday before Christmas have not deterred the near-2,000 away fans expected at St Mary’s.
Meanwhile, youngsters Johnny Burn and Nathan Thomas have joined Northern League Darlington on “work experience” loans until January 2.