MARTIN O'Neill has admitted he is targeting a striker to "lead the line" for Sunderland next season - and add the cutting edge that was missing last term.
The Black Cats will jet off to South Korea to step up their pre-season programme today, but the squad that journeys to Seoul is likely to be boosted by a forward recruit before the Premier League kicks off in August.
And while O’Neill remains cagey when pressed on names, he admits that he is looking for someone to give his side a bit of offensive authority.
The Journal understands that player is Wolves striker Stephen Fletcher – and that Sunderland will look to kick-start negotiations when they return from Asia next week.
“It would be churlish of me to start commenting on individual players,” O’Neill said. “But there are players out there that I feel you should try and get if you could.
“The very obvious point is that we need someone to lead the line, because Bendtner is gone now.”
O’Neill’s stated desire for a player to ‘lead the line’ would appear to pour cold water on the weekend links with Tottenham’s experienced England striker Jermain Defoe. He was pitched as being at the centre of a transfer battle between Sunderland and Stoke in one Sunday newspaper.
The Black Cats want someone with the physical presence and the aerial ability to get the most out of Sunderland’s wingers.
And O’Neill also wants to add another wide man to complement James McClean and Seb Larsson.
But the striker identified by O’Neill is Fletcher – although Wolves have made it clear they want at least £10m to encourage them to the negotiate.
Their new manager, Stale Solbakken, said last week that a “once-in-a-lifetime” offer would be enough to take him away from the Black Country. Stoke are also keen.
“At the moment they’re Wolverhampton players but there can be big fish out there who suddenly comes in with a once-in-a-lifetime offer for them, and also with a very good deal for the club,” Solbakken said.
“We have to make sure we’re ready for that.
“(Matt) Jarvis and Fletcher are good, attractive players, and know they can attract interest from the Premier League clubs. They probably think there’s an opportunity.”