SUNDERLAND have offered promising striker Mikaël Mandron a new one-year deal to keep him away from Premier League predators.
The French-born striker, who qualifies for both England and Scotland and is attracting the interest of both the FA and SFA, recently broke into the club’s Under-21 side and has been regularly training with the first team alongside goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
While there is set to be a major clear-out of youth players over the summer, The Journal can reveal that the club have already moved to try and secure Mandron for another year beyond his scholarship contract – which expires in the summer of 2013.
The 18-year-old scored a fine goal for the Under-21s against Everton recently in a game that was watched by Ricky Sbragia, now the Scotland Under-19 boss.
Martin O’Neill has already made it clear that he will not be promoting players from the youth set-up solely to fill space on the bench, so his desire to take a closer look at striker Mandron marks him out.
The club are keen to tie him down and despite interest from other clubs, the player is understood to want to stay on
Wearside and would be open to an even longer deal.
The Black Cats have also offered a new deal to defender John Egan, who suffered a broken leg while on loan at Bradford, and are planning talks with Louis Laing, who has also suffered a serious injury that has ruled him out of most of this season.
Sunderland’s youth set-up is coming to something of a crossroads this summer.
The Black Cats are set to release many of those who have been part of the Under-21 set-up this year.
The club may look to promote the Under-18 group into the development league next year because there is no appetite for wholesale recruitment at that level, with O’Neill keen to bolster the first-team ranks in the close season.
The club can scratch one potential summer target off their wish-list, however.
Croatia left-back Ivan Strinic is close to agreeing a move to Dynamo Moscow from Ukrainian outfit Dnipro – ending his chances of moving to Wearside.
The Black Cats made a bid for the player last summer, but are instead intent on trying to strike a permanent deal for Danny Rose in the close season.
“We received a concrete proposal from Sunderland, but Dnipro rejected the deal,” his agent Tonci Martic said.
“With regards to Dynamo Moscow, there have been no formal negotiations but maybe something will change in the summer.”
Meanwhile, Jack Colback has told Sunderland they cannot afford to slip up when they travel to struggling QPR on Saturday.
Harry Redknapp’s side earned themselves a lifeline with a defeat of Southampton last weekend, and losing to them would be a major blow for Sunderland’s own survival hopes.
Colback said: “QPR will be sensing they can get out of it now and they’re not that far off safety.
“Their confidence will be up, but we went down there last year and got the win so we’ll be confident we can do that again.
“It’s a crucial time, we need to start picking up points and make sure we’re not looking over our shoulder.
“We’ve got far too much quality in the team to be even contemplating the bottom three.
“But we still need a few points to get away from the relegation zone.
“It’s always difficult when there’s that sort of atmosphere, but it’s part and parcel of football and you’ve got to deal with it.”