SUNDERLAND will be frustrated if they hope to quickly make right-back Alan Hutton’s loan from Tottenham permanent.
The Scotland international has impressed since joining the Black Cats in January, and Steve Bruce would love to make him his first signing of the summer.
With Harry Redknapp telling chairman Daniel Levy Hutton is not part of his plans, a swift exit would seem on the cards.
But the two clubs are a long way away on price, and Redknapp is believed to have asked his chairman to hold firm until Spurs’ valuation is met.
Redknapp is determined to recoup most if not all of the £9m Juande Ramos paid Rangers for the 25-year-old in January 2008. The Black Cats are only prepared to pay around £6m.
A game of cat and mouse seems certain to follow between two clubs who have done a lot of business with one another over the last few years, mainly in a northerly direction.
Newcastle United have also been linked with a move for Hutton – suspiciously by master wheeler-dealer Redknapp.
The Magpies have denied the link and anyway would not be willing or able to meet Spurs’ asking price, never mind come close to matching the wages Hutton is currently on.
It is hard to see any club taking Hutton at the £9m price tag that takes no account of the drastic downturn in football finances since Tottenham bought a player they have since lost faith in.
Striker Kenwyne Jones says Hutton has fitted well into the team spirit at the Stadium of Light, and would like to see him join permanently. “It’s up to the people at the top of the club,” he commented. “For him to stay his performances had to tell and that’s a decision for the board.
“Alan is a nice guy. That’s why we get on so well. Everyone who comes in and gets into the spirit, basically fits in.”
Bruce is already making plans for next season – which include considering an offer for Ipswich Town’s highly-rated teenage striker Connor Wickham. But Simone Pepe has joined Bruce in laughing off the suggestion that he will be a Sunderland player next season.
Bruce rubbished rumours he might pay £15m for an Italy winger he claimed never to have heard of. The 26-year-old Udinese player was equally dismissive of the prospect.
“My father told me if an offer like that arrived he would bring me to England on foot!” he said.
“Joking aside, I will talk to the directors after the season is over and discuss the future. But I am at home in Udine and I am happy here. I would have no problem remaining here for the rest of my four-year contract.”
Sunderland’s interest in 17-year-old Wickham, who has two goals in his last three Ipswich games, is genuine though Bruce stressed he would be joining a long queue of Premier League clubs if the Colchester-born player was put on the market.
“We’re aware of the lad, he’s a very talented boy,” Bruce admitted. “But if he became available I’m sure there would be plenty of other clubs – not just us – who would like to be kept in the picture.”
Meanwhile the Black Cats manager has allayed fears the latest in a long catalogue of John Mensah injuries is a serious one.
The on-loan Ghana captain came off at half-time during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Burnley, but is expected to be fit for Saturday’s trip to Hull City.