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Grayson hints at interest in pair of Preston stars & three others he could raid Deepdale for

New Sunderland boss Simon Grayson was directly asked about the prospect of signing ex-Preston star Aidan McGeady and current Lilywhites striker Jordan Hugill in his first press conference. But who else is most likely to be on his radar from last season at Deepdale?

Huddersfield Town v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

According to the Daily Mirror, new Sunderland boss Simon Grayson has been warned off returning to Preston North End to raid the cream of Deepdale, but that won't stop the links now that the Black Cats can finally begin a huge summer rebuild.

Asked in his maiden press conference about two of Preston's most notable star names from last season's solid Championship campaign, Grayson hinted he would be interested:

"McGeady and Hugill are two players I’ve worked with before and they are already linked with us. It won’t be a problem attracting players to this football club, but it’s got to be the right type of player..."

But would they suit this Sunderland side as the new man seeks to stamp his mark on a squad desperate for new faces and fresh impetus? Here's an appraisal of their prospects plus three other Deepdale stars Grayson may have his eye on.

Aiden McGeady

31-year-old winger, 8 goals & 9 assists in 2016/17

Preston North End v Arsenal - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Former Celtic winger McGeady had a terrific season for North End last year.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Okay, so technically not officially a Lilywhite, but the Irish international had a very successful year long loan at Deepdale last season, winning Preston's Player of the Year award last year.

McGeady has resurrected his career in the Championship under the guidance of Simon Grayson.

Although the player has since returned to Everton, Sunderland's new manager has already said he would be "foolish" not to try and sign him on a permanent basis when he was in charge at Preston.

McGeady hit eight goals for the Lilywhites last season and a modest £2m fee has been rumoured to be the fee wanted by the Toffees.

With a year left on his Everton contract, there's also been suggestions that a further year-long loan could be an option. It would certainly be a surprise if Grayson didn't attempt to bring the former Celtic winger to Wearside.

Ben Pearson

22-year-old central midfielder, 80% pass completion, 14 yellow cards in 2016/17

Brighton & Hove Albion v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship
The Manchester United trainee is full of energy and can play of a number of roles across the middle.
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

The former Manchester United youngster had an impressive first season in Lancashire, winning Young Player of the Year.

His energy and tenacity in the centre of midfield meant he chalked up fourteen yellow cards, but he was instrumental in Preston's impressive ability to retain possession.

When Grayson signed the Oldham-born midfielder last summer, he commented,

We see him as energetic, box-to-box midfielder. Likes a tackle and coming from Manchester United he is decent on the ball as well.

Although Sunderland are not short on midfielders, a move for Pearson would not be unlikely.

Greg Cunningham

26-year-old Left Back/Centre Half, 4 assists, 3.7 clearances per game in 2016/17

Preston North End v AFC Bournemouth - Capital One Cup Third Round
Cunningham could offer versatility across the back-line.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Last year, an injury to Bryan Oviedo had Sunderland with no recognised left back for a period. With Jason Denayer returned to Manchester City and Javier Manquillo to Atletico Madrid a lack of options across the back means the Black Cats' new boss is faced with a key task of bringing in fresh faces possessing versatility in defence.

Cunnigham, a former Manchester City youngster played predominately at left back last season but has provided cover at centre half; so possesses an element of flexibility to bring to defence.

Very much a modern day full back, Cunningham offers pace and plenty of support to his winger in front. A full international for the Republic of Ireland, the 26-year-old would come with five years of Championship experience with seasons at Bristol City, Leicester and Nottingham Forest as well as Preston.

Jordan Hugill

25-year-old striker, 12 goals and 5.1 aerial duals won per game in 2016/17

Brighton & Hove Albion v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship
The North East born forward was linked to us even before Simon Grayson was appointed.
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Linked to the Lads when David Moyes was at the Stadium of Light, the appointment of his former manager on Thursday will no doubt ramp up the speculation surrounding the Middlesbrough-born striker.

An imposing centre-forward with the ability to rough up centre half's, the six-footer may be exactly what's required for a Tuesday night at somewhere like Portman Road.

Hugill was actually due for a trail here in 2009, but an injury scuppered any opportunity of a move permanently.

With no strikers on the books since Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe departed this week, Sunderland need to bring in strikers who can cope in the Championship and Grayson let out a wry smile when Hugill's name was mentioned in his first press conference on Friday.

Tom Barkhuizen

23-year-old striker, 6 goals in 12 starts in 2016/17.

Northampton Town v Morecambe - Sky Bet League Two
Barkhuizen scored 6 goals in 17 apps from Preston after moving to the club in January.
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

As attested to above - Sunderland desperately need centre forwards and the Blackpool-born forward has shown enough promise to potentially be another that could follow his former manager to Wearside.

Signed as recently as January from Morecambe, Barkhuizen adapted to the Championship with consummate ease and won Player of the Month for March after hitting four goals in five games.

Still only 23, his goal scoring spree towards the end of last season almost pushed Preston into an unlikely play-off place and he'll be wanting to continue to improve on his start to life in the second tier.

Barkhuizen did sign a new contract at Deepdale only this week, so it may something of a surprise to see him make the move. But perhaps the lure of Sunderland would most certainly be a chance he would jump at if a bid was made, considering he was playing in League Two this time last year.

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