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Sunderland ‘open talks’ for McCormack; Grayson’s squad for Derby opening game nears completion

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Reports suggest Sunderland have opened talks with Aston Villa to sign striker Ross McCormack on loan. His arrival will mean a couple of tweaks here and there and Simon Grayson has his opening day line-up nearly complete.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

According to the Daily Mail, Sunderland have now opened talks to sign Aston Villa striker Ross McCormack on a season-long loan.

The report confirms the Black Cats’ interest in the 30-year-old who is free to leave Villa Park after manager Steve Bruce left him out of a pre-season trip to Germany.

McCormack was a big-money signing from Fulham last summer, arriving in the West Midlands for £12m with a proven pedigree in the Championship.

Aston Villa v Huddersfield Town: Sky Bet Championship
McCormack scoring for Villa last season
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Scotland international endured a difficult campaign and after a much publicised falling out with Bruce was sent on loan to Nottingham Forest on February 1st. That stint failed to get going too and McCormack missed the end of the season after an operation to remove cysts on his jaw.

The signing of a showpiece striker will complete one of the few remaining pieces of Simon Grayson’s initial squad puzzle, one which is steadily being rebuilt at the Stadium of Light ahead of the opening day fixture with Derby a week on Friday.

With Robbin Ruiter to complete his trial this week to fill one of two vacancies in goal, and a move for Blackburn ‘keeper Jason Steele likely to fill the other, Grayson will complete his first layer of defence and be able to tick that box on his list.

Robbin Ruiter warming up before his outing at Bradford on Saturday
Sunderland AFC Twitter

The signing of a central defender would help complete the next level as would some additional cover at full-back though the Sunderland boss has options in his back-line after bringing in Browning and Galloway from Everton.

The former has looked solid in the centre of defence and he looks ready to slot straight in and do a job. The latter is likely to be given the chance to show what he can do on Wednesday night against Scunthorpe in the Black Cats’ penultimate pre-season after sitting out the weekend with a niggle.

The departure of centre-back Lamine Kone will leave a hole to fill in the middle of defence but that hurdle can be overcome as and when someone rocks up at the Stadium of Light with sufficient cash to finally tempt Sunderland into a sale.

That exit seems likely to be after the season starts with West Ham still thought to be keeping an eye on the Ivorian.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Kone has been a mixed bag in pre-season and likely has a couple of Premier League clubs keeping an eye on him still
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Ahead of a four man defence, Grayson has opted for something of a diamond formation in the last two pre-season games.

Sunderland’s midfield is picking itself at present with Jeremain Lens and Wahbi Khazri occupying the wider spots and new signing Aiden McGeady set for a run out to supplement them at Glanford Park in mid-week in his first outing in red-and-white.

Central midfield pairing Didier Ndong and Lee Cattermole are a shoe-in presuming they stay fit and up front Josh Maja has impressed everyone who has watched him since his summer breakthrough into the pre-season squad.

Livingston v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Didier Ndong at Livingston two weeks ago
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The signing of McCormack would bring further options to the striking positions alongside ex-Bury man James Vaughan.

Something like this for the starting eleven at Scunthorpe then:

Ruiter - Jones - Browning - Kone - Galloway - Cattermole - Ndong - Lens - Khazri - Vaughan - Maja

And it looks unlikely to be far off that line-up for the opening day visit of Derby on August 4th.

It still needs work. And the squad is still light in certain key areas but consider that cover is available and a few players are still working their way back to fitness and perhaps this isn’t a bad Championship squad after all.