Sunderland have run the rule over Exeter City’s promising teenager midfielder Matthew Grimes as they look to inject fresh legs into their experienced squad this summer.
The Black Cats are ready to refresh their engine room options and have bid farewell to Craig Gardner, who is being tracked by West Brom, Leicester and Derby County.
They are planning new talks with the rest of their out-of-contract options but they may also lose Jack Colback and Seb Larsson, who are wanted by a clutch of top-flight clubs if Sunderland fail to match their wage demands.
Behind the scenes, Sunderland are looking to recruit younger players capable of playing to Gustavo Poyet’s passing, possession-based philosophy and they have taken a close look at Grimes, the 18-year-old star of the Grecians’ season. Sunderland spotters were in attendance when Grimes played for Exeter at Hartlepool recently, along with a number of scouts from top flight and Championship clubs.
Grimes was handed the club’s player of the season award and is seen as a two-footed playmaker with the potential to improve. His boss Paul Tidsdale said: “He definitely has the ability to go up the leagues and play at a very good level.”
Sunderland are also looking at Aston Villa’s Marc Albrighton and Chelsea’s Josh McEachran, who has spent the season on loan at Wigan Athletic.
The club are also set to bide their time as they look to link up with Fabio Borini again. The Liverpool forward spent last season on loan at Sunderland but was back in the Reds squad as they headed to Ireland for a post-season money-spinning clash with Shamrock Rovers.
That is a hint that he is part of Brendan Rodgers’ plans for next season but Sunderland have asked to be kept informed about his availability.
“It’s one of the easier ones for us in some ways because it’s not in our hands,” assistant boss Charlie Oatway said. “It’s totally in Liverpool’s hands. We’ll just have to wait and monitor that one. But I’m sure if he is available, he’d like to come back and play with us.” Meanwhile, ex-Sunderland midfielder David Meyler has spoken of his fear that he would not walk again when he was injured while playing for the Black Cats.
The Hull enforcer is set to line up in an FA Cup final for Steve Bruce’s side this weekend just three years after club doctors told him he was most likely going to have to give up professional football.
He told reporters: “I was told I might never walk properly again so you can put that in context, to play in an FA Cup Final – I don’t know if I will be playing yet obviously – but to have the opportunity would be fantastic, a remarkable day for me and the family, all the other players and their families and the manager.
“It will be a fantastic day out and I believe we are going to win it and please God we will. I had made a right mess of my leg, that I would not be right for a long time.
“The first time was that bad, the second time felt like someone had broken my finger nail, but it was the length of time I needed after the first one.
“But it was 2010/20111 – it is a long time ago now lads, three years.”