David James' escape route from Portsmouth looks like it could be Sunderland who have made preliminary enquiries about signing the England goalkeeper this week. The 39-year-old has been desperate to leave the club all summer but has found himself short of options for first-team football in the Premier League.
Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, has been willing to listen to offers for Craig Gordon, the Scottish goalkeeper signed for £9m by Roy Keane in 2007. With James destined for a depressing relegation battle with Portsmouth he has been eager to get away. The club's three other England internationals, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Glen Johnson have all left this year.
James' problem was wages in excess of £50,000-a-week and a low demand for goalkeepers in the upper echelons of the Premier League. There were opportunities to join clubs with established No 1s but he was not willing to give up a starting place in a World Cup year.
Bruce is refusing to be carried away by Sunderland's impressive start to the new season. The Black Cats have collected six points from a possible nine in the Premier League, losing only to Chelsea, and eased their way into the Carling Cup third round with a routine 4-1 victory at Norwich on Monday evening despite resting nine of their biggest names.
Owner Ellis Short has already seen a promising return on his summer investment, which has taken Darren Bent, Lee Cattermole, Fraizer Campbell, Lorik Cana and Paulo da Silva to the Stadium of Light in a £26million spending spree to date. Lyon centre-back John Mensah also joined yesterday on a season-long loan.
However, Bruce, who was charged with the task of establishing the club in the top half of the table after swapping Wigan for Wearside during the summer, knows his job has just started. He said: "In management, you want to get off to a good start and you want to hit the ground running, of course. That always helps.
"But the one thing I have learnt is you can't get too carried away with it because around the corner, you are ready for a kicking.
"There's progress being made, I am delighted with what we have done in terms of what we have brought into the squad. they have all come and played a huge part already, and I am sure they will continue to do so. We have a run of games now that could set us up for a really decent season."