TITUS Bramble is set to be rewarded for an impressive first season at Sunderland with a contract extension after the centre-back indicated he is willing to end his career at the Stadium of Light.
Bramble signed a three-year deal with the option of another year when he moved from Wigan last summer, but the Black Cats appear to be willing to take up that option now as reward for the impact he has made.
At £1m, the former Newcastle defender has been one of the best pound-for-pound signings of the season and is so happy on Wearside he wants to stay for as long as possible.
At 29, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce feels the centre-back has at least another four or five years at the top of his game and will look to ensure he has tied him down for the next three years.
Bramble will hope to sit down to agree the extension when he returns for the start of pre-season training. Bruce knows he has plenty of work to do in the transfer market this summer and he will look to sign a new centre-back, although he will be brought in to replace John Mensah, not Bramble or Michael Turner.
Mensah will not be offered another loan deal after another injury-ruined campaign, while a dressing-room row with Bruce after the home defeat by Fulham earlier this month did not help his case for a renewal.
The Ghana international’s many physical problems, which often prevent him from training before games, appeared to finally catch up with him this season as he lacked mobility on the ground and was a pale shadow of the player who first arrived at Sunderland in 2009.
Another player who is vulnerable is Anton Ferdinand, who has just one year left on his £40,000-a-week contract. The former West Ham prospect was available for transfer 12 months ago and that will be the same this summer as Bruce looks to rejuvenate his squad. He would also like to sell Nyron Nosworthy and George McCartney, although their wage demands have put prospective buyers off in the past and that is unlikely to change in a marketplace that is likely to contract rather than expand.
Bruce hopes he will be able to complete the free-transfer signings of Sebastian Larsson from Birmingham City and Coventry City goalkeeper Keiren Westwood quickly, which will leave him to concentrate on more complex deals.
Bruce would like to sign Wolverhampton striker Kevin Doyle, while Sunderland’s interest in Wigan Athletic’s Charles N’Zogbia is long-standing. However, there is likely to be far more competition this summer than last year when Bruce was told there was not enough money to persuade the Latics to part with the former Newcastle midfielder.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford will be one of two North East representatives in England’s squad for the Under-17 World Cup.
The Washington-born youngster is a first-year apprentice at the Academy of Light. He is expected to be England’s first choice for the Mexico tournament.
Middlesbrough defender Adam Jackson is also in the 21-man party.