With reports continuing to claim Simon Grayson is keen to add another striker to his Sunderland squad before Friday’s season opener against Derby, a return to Preston looks increasingly likely to land target man Jordan Hugill.
The Northern Echo yesterday re-launched the gossip that the Black Cats boss is still eager to raid Deepdale for his former top-scorer. And rumours continue to suggest that a move is more than probable.
The Black Cats were strongly linked with the Middlesbrough-born forward earlier in the summer but with Preston naturally expecting a few million quid to compensate them for the loss of a player who scored thirteen times last season, Sunderland appeared to cool any interest.
Since then, Grayson has landed James Vaughan from Bury for a fee thought to have been worth half-a-million pounds and brought Lewis Grabban in on loan from Bournemouth.
Sunderland failed to score in either of their final pair of pre-season fixtures - against Scunthorpe and Celtic - and Saturday’s showing at the Stadium of Light has ushered in a new wave of disquiet on Wearside. The Black Cats are but 48-hours now from facing a Derby side who will arrive in town keen to capitalise on the prevailing mood.
The very last thing Grayson, his team and the Sunderland support needed in the wake of what was supposed to be a Mackem-celebration on Saturday was the fall-out from an ill-conceived final friendly of the summer, coupled with hints of dressing room unrest.
And whilst most are willing to wipe their memories of the ease with which Celtic strolled through the red-and-white ranks last weekend, layering Darron Gibson’s drunken rant on top - which suggested there are players who will take to the pitch on Friday who couldn’t care less - hardly helped.
Sunderland need a boost right now and signing a striker is usually the type of event which will do just that. But is Hugill the capture which will excite Mackem hearts?
A local lad-ish, the Teesside born 25-year-old is thought to be keen on the idea of playing in front of a north east crowd at the club at which he was offered a trial as a kid but missed out on due to injury.
After turning out for the likes of Seaham Red Star and Consett as a youth, Hugill knows the area well and understands what football means in the region. The 6ft burly hitman has also played for Gateshead and Hartlepool.
Preston’s top-scorer last term, Hugill only has 24 league goals to his name in 110 appearances but he appears to have been something of a late-bloomer, saving his best career season for the campaign just ended under Simon Grayson at Deepdale.
Hugill may not be the stellar name which would fill a few bums on pink seats for Friday night, but he would be a welcome addition. If we had a fiver spare, we’d be sticking it on him appearing in Sunderland’s new away shirt for a promo shot by the end of the week.