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Fresh links to defenders hint at Grayson’s next transfer priority after back-line horror show

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Sunderland have been linked with two decent Championship centre-backs over the weekend - surely they can’t be any worse than the offerings currently on show?

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Sunderland have been linked with two centre-backs over the course of the weekend as Simon Grayson surveys the wreckage of a defensive line-up embarrassed by Scottish side St Johnstone on Saturday.

Rumoured interest in Bristol City’s Aden Flint and Aston Villa’s Tommy Elphick suggests the new Black Cats’ boss is fully aware of the issues which will face his back-line once the season starts and also hints that defender Lamine Kone is nearing the Stadium of Light exit door.

Robins’ centre-half Flint was linked again with Sunderland by the Bristol Post yesterday as the 28-year-old defender’s recent social media activity was scrutinised and concluded as suggesting he is on his way out of Ashton Gate.

Bristol City v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship
Bristol City’s Aden Flint
Photo by Martin Willetts/Getty Images

Leeds United were the other Championship club said to be monitoring Flint but reports in Yorkshire have cooled those stories with claims the Elland Road outfit have made no move for the 6ft 5in centre-back.

Sunderland have been linked with Flint for a while, stretching back to Sam Allardyce’s tenure at the Stadium of Light.

Back then, Big Sam was said to be willing to offer unwanted right-back Adam Matthews to Bristol City as an exchange for their prized defender. That was during the ex-Celtic man’s original successful stint in the West Country before his later loan spell went awry.

Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship
Sunderland’s Adam Matthews last October playing for Bristol City
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Following that, David Moyes was then occasionally said to be after Flint during the Scot's couple of transfer windows at Sunderland, all of which came to nothing.

Flint is probably one of the best centre-backs in the Championship and it’s something of a surprise that he hasn’t been snaffled by a ‘bigger’ club before now.

He’s solid at the back and has scored 25 league goals in the last three seasons in Bristol. He’d also attract a reasonable fee and is under contract until 2020. The Robins have hinted they will listen to offers of around £4m for their defender.

As for Tommy Elphick, the Villa centre-half is thought to be free to leave the West Midlands after falling down the pecking order in Steve Bruce’s side.

The Birmingham Mail report that if Sunderland can move some of the club’s remaining high-earners this week then a bid for Elphick is anticipated from the Stadium of Light within days.

Newcastle United v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
Tommy Elphick playing for Villa against the Mags at St James Park in February
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Elphick joined Villa last summer from Bournemouth in then-boss Roberto De Matteo’s transfer splurge as the Claret-and-Blue club tried to keep pace with big-spending Newcastle to launch a bid to bounce back into the Premier League after 2016’s relegation.

Leeds and Birmingham are the other two Championship sides said to be interested in the former Brighton academy product.

With Lamine Kone widely panned for much of this summer’s pre-season outings and Papy Djilobodji looking decidedly worse, Simon Grayson will have watched Saturday’s defensive display - in which Sunderland gifted their Scottish opponents three easy goals - with utter horror.

Kone has now spent 12 months of his career clearly uninterested in playing for Sunderland. The 28-year-old former floater around the French leagues has been paid handsomely by the Black Cats since that well publicised dispute last summer.

As for Papy Djilobodji, the ex-Senegalese international clearly exists on another planet to his mortal teammates. Still capable of the most bizarre defensive actions of any player in a red-and-white shirt, the 28-year-old may well be beyond help.

So a centre-half or two will do nicely this week Simon.