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Full-back swoop now unlikely; keeper’s intentions unclear & Sunderland continue striker pursuit

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Less than a week until the Championship kicks off and Simon Grayson continues to scour the market for reinforcements at a knock-down price. Here’s the latest on three current links.

With under a week until the Championship season kicks off, Sunderland boss Simon Grayson has acknowledged his side remain light in certain key areas.

The Black Cats take on Celtic this afternoon at the Stadium of Light in this summer’s final warm-up game for the season proper which starts on Friday. Ideally, Grayson will be hoping to bring in some additional fire-power before then and sort out his goalkeeping options as a minimum.

One notable feature of this summer’s transfer business has been the fact that news on each of Sunderland’s signings has been leaked well in advance of their actual arrival. So with rumours proving to be as good an indication of who’s up next and who’s not coming, here’s the latest gossip doing the rounds.


Alan Hutton unlikely

Sheffield Wednesday are on the verge of signing former Sunderland full-back Alan Hutton according to various sources.

The 32-year-old was linked with a return to the Stadium of Light during the week, some seven years after he made 11 appearances under Steve Bruce on loan at Sunderland, but a move back to the north east now seems unlikely.

Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
Alan Hutton (L)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Hutton has spoken out about rumours he’s set to depart Bruce’s current side, insisting he remains happy in the West Midlands, but a move to Hillsborough seems his most probable next destination should he exit Villa.


Ruiter’s next step remains unclear

Dutch goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter appears to have completed his initial trial at Sunderland which has proven to be something of a success for him personally on more than one level.

The 30-year-old seems to have gained an invitation to sign a deal at the Stadium of Light and attracted the attentions of Premier League Burnley and Championship Hull City into the bargain.

FC Utrecht v Ajax Amsterdam - Dutch Eredivisie
Robbin Ruiter
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Not bad for a player who ended last season with a serious injury yet turned down the offer of a new deal in Holland to try his luck elsewhere.

There seems to have been no sign of Ruiter in training at Sunderland yesterday and there are claims that his agent travelled to Lancashire to hold initial discussions about the interest from Burnley.

Sean Dyche is currently seeking a new number 2 to Tom Heaton with the retirement of former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson and the lure of the Premier League may prove tempting to Ruiter instead.

However, moving to this country only to sit on the bench at best at Turf Moor for a player now into his thirties - one who is keen to give English football a shot - may yet sway the Dutchman into opting for a permanent stint on Wearside.

Notably new signing Jason Steele nabbed the No 1 jersey in yesterday’s squad number announcement and there are suggestions that the County Durham-born stopper was minded to leave Blackburn and join Sunderland on the assumption he would be Simon Grayson’s first choice in goal.

Derby County v Blackburn Rovers - Sky Bet Championship
New Sunderland ‘keeper Jason Steele whilst at Blackburn last season
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Ruiter may seek some insight into the Sunderland manager’s intentions as to who will get the nod in the league campaign between the sticks before committing himself to signing for the Black Cats.

Steele will be introduced to the home fans this afternoon as the likely starter in goal for the visit of Celtic to the Stadium of Light.


Striker still pursued but Sunderland stall on loan fee

Sunderland are still thought to be pursuing Aston Villa’s unwanted striker Ross McCormack but may have backed off for now after the West Midland’s club demanded a loan fee of up to £1m.

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship
Ross McCormack
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

With Steve Bruce’s outfit seemingly out of steam on further transfer prospects after peaking with the signing of John Terry, cash-strapped Villa appear to be trying to rake in every penny they can from any outgoings to fund a second wave of purchases.

Simon Grayson suggested yesterday that he is acutely aware his assembled strike-force of Vaughan, Grabban and Maja presently lack the guaranteed goals a Championship promotion push will demand and he will continue to seek additional firepower.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Striker Josh Maja will be in and around the Sunderland first team this season
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

But with the Sunderland boss still unable to whack in a bid to purchase a proven striker outright without selling someone first, another body in on loan seems to be his best bet for options before Friday’s opener against Derby.

The mooted £1m fee for McCormack - who cost Villa £12m last summer - would be more than the Black Cats are receiving from AC Milan for the services of Fabio Borini this season and likely requires a decent percentage knocking off before Sunderland will resume negotiations.