Sunderland were well ahead of Liverpool in pursuit of the signature of Ipswich Town striker Connor Wickham last night, with a bid of £9m, which could rise to £12.5m, already accepted and the 18-year-old expected on Wearside for a medical and talks today.
Liverpool had revealed their determination to invest in young talent with an £8m offer three weeks ago for one of the brightest prospects in the English game. Ipswich wanted £10m but that difference seemed breachable.
But to general surprise on Merseyside, Sunderland have moved in with a bold bid. It is for Liverpool, whose transfer spending plans have also been hit by the failure of French Sylvain Marveaux to come through a medical, to decide whether to head back in with a higher bid. Wickham, a boyhood Liverpool fan, is certainly attracted by the idea of a move to Merseyside.
Birmingham midfielder Craig Gardner is due on Wearside for talks with manager Steve Bruce. Sunderland also have Wigan Athletic's Charles N'Zogbia on their radar.