After the club's 10th-place finish at the end of the 2010/11 season, Steve Bruce was preparing a spending spree to rebuild his side for the new campaign.
Sunderland had cashed in on talisman Darren Bent in the January transfer window too, and Bruce seemed intent on changing both style of play and personnel.
In this particular summer, Bruce was scouring the ‘free agent’ list of Premier League footballers that were out of contract at their clubs. Sometimes, this list can get you some value for money - and one particular player appeared to be on the Sunderland manager's radar.
Birmingham City had just been relegated from the Premier League despite winning the League Cup. Their squad consisted of some very capable Premier League footballers who found suitors upon their relegation.
Swedish international Seb Larsson was catching the eye of Bruce, who seemed intent on reuniting with the player who he had managed previously at Birmingham.
Larsson had built a reputation as a bit of a set piece specialist with corners, penalties and especially free kicks said to be his forté. Around this time, speculation was rampant that the Swede was going to join either Newcastle United or Sunderland.
On Wearside, it was hoped that his previous connection to Bruce would see Seb join the lads, with his ability to play across the midfield seen as something required at Sunderland.
The Northern Echo reported that Sunderland were among he favourites for his signature:
Sunderland officials are quietly confident that out-of-contract midfielder Seb Larsson will be the club’s first signing of the summer later next month.
Larsson’s exit from Birmingham City was confirmed last week, and the 25-year-old has already received offers from four Premier League clubs.
However, Black Cats boss Steve Bruce enjoys a close personal relationship with Larsson having taken him to St Andrew’s from Arsenal during his time as manager of Birmingham, and it is hoped the pair’s previous history of working together will influence the Swede’s next choice of club.
Furthermore, Larsson’s agent Per Jonsson was merely ramping up the interest in his player when he came out and suggested that there was many clubs looking at him.
Seb has a few offers from some good clubs.
He will need a few weeks to consider his future.
We have the international games coming up, but after those games we will be sorting out his future pretty quickly. By the first or second week in June, everything should be sorted out.
There have been four clubs from the Premier League who have made approaches. There is no problem finding a club in this case – the problem is sorting out which club it is.
A few weeks later, it was confirmed that Larsson would join Sunderland. The midfielder spent six years at the club, making 172 appearances and scoring 12 goals. His time at the club was unfortunately associated with countless relegation battles, and ultimately relegation from the top flight, though his commitment to the club could never be doubted!