Defender set to pen new deal but may extend stay in Norway
Young Sunderland defender Michael Ledger has attracted praise for his performances since moving on loan to Norwegian club Viking Stavanger.
A regular at Under-23 level for Sunderland, Ledger had not played a game at senior level until a fortnight ago when he turned out in Norway.
But he has impressed Viking coach Ian Burchnell at how he has performed in two friendly games for the Scandinavian outfit ahead of the new Eliteserien season which kicks-off at the beginning of April.
The British manager told Norwegian media:
I'm really amazed at how quickly he has taken to this level considering how little time he has been with our club.
I would not at all be afraid to use him in the league.
The 19-year-old centre-back has also expressed his satisfaction at how his first few weeks have gone in Norwegian football, despite a difficult baptism as his side were comfortably beaten by fellow top-tier side Odd FK in his first match:
It's gone very well and I feel I have settled nicely into this group. In terms of results it might not have gone so well - since we lost 4-1 at Odd, but I've been told that I have done my job.
Ledger played a further ninety minutes last Friday against Bergen-based SK Brann, a game that his new side won by two-goals-to-nil.
And the Consett-born defender, who signed his first professional contract in 2015, has suggested he has been offered a twelve-month extension at Sunderland beyond his present deal which expires in July:
I do not know if all the papers are signed, but it appears to be so. That was what I wanted most.
That also rules out Viking signing him on a permanent basis for free in the summer, but the player and the Norwegian club have suggested that both would be open to extending his stay - which will end once the English season is finished - to the end of the Eliteserien campaign which runs to October with Burchnell saying,
It would certainly be interesting for us to ask Sunderland to loan him for the Norwegian season if he continues in equally good progress.
And the player himself agrees:
I think it might be a sensible solution for me to stay in Norway for the season if I get playing time here. It's something I'm open to, however, it is something the clubs will need to sort out between each other.
'Boro game - date won't be set until next week
It would have been all over by now, but Middlesbrough's now-ended involvement in the FA Cup meant that the Tees-Wear derby, which was set for the weekend just gone, had to be rearranged.
The biggest A19 clash for years will likely go a long way to deciding if one - or both - of the North East clubs are relegated this season.
But even with Middlesbrough now out of the cup, according to the Evening Gazette no date will likely be set even this week.
The Teesside-based newspaper suggests the fixture is not an easy one to rearrange due to various complications with Premier League scheduling. The biggest one of those is the loose agreement between the FA and UEFA that domestic fixtures are not played on the same nights as European ties.
And with Europa League quarter-finals set to be concluded on Thursday, it's likely the league's governing body will await the outcome of those before confirming the date that Sunderland will travel to Middlesbrough. We have previously understood that the two clubs had tentatively pencilled in week commencing the 24th April for the derby.
But on top of all that, there are several more Premier League matches without a date presently with more to follow now that the FA Cup semi-finals have to be arranged.
One of those involves Arsenal of course, with Sunderland due to travel to the Emirates on semi-final weekend - the 22nd April. That one is now another game which will now have to be scrapped and rearranged.
It all makes for an incredibly congested end to the season for David Moyes' men. Though with key players set for a return in the coming weeks, including Jan Kirchhoff, Victor Anichebe and Lee Cattermole, coupled with Sunderland's traditional end of season rise from the ashes, that might yet work in Mackem favours.