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29 June 2011, 10:38
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce wants to stage a double transfer coup.
He's said to be closing in on Ipswich striker Connor Wickham and Birmingham midfielder Craig Gardner.
It's thought 18 year old Wickham is due to undergo a medical within the next 24 hours after the Black Cats put in a formal bid of more than £8 million.
They're also expected to hold talks with 24-year-old Gardner as they try to push home their interest in him.
However, Bruce and chairman Niall Quinn could face a race against time to persuade Wickham that his future lies at the Stadium of Light before his other suitors can stake their own claims.
The player has been heavily linked with Liverpool and is understood to favour a switch to Anfield, while Arsenal and Tottenham also reportedly have an interest in him.
Sunderland will hope they have stolen a march on their potential competitors by getting their blow in first, although that could yet have the effect of prompting a response from other parties.
Bruce has moved for the teenager in an effort to rebuild an attacking unit which has been torn apart by departures and injury.
The Black Cats started the last campaign with Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan, Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell at their disposal.
However, Bent's January moved to Aston Villa, Welbeck's return to Manchester United after his loan spell and another knee injury for Campbell has severely depleted their resources.
Bruce is desperate to build upon last season's top-10 Barclays Premier League finish, which was achieved despite an injury crisis which prompted a post-Christmas slump.
England Under-21 international Wickham certainly fits the bill as Sunderland attempt to build a squad of young, talented players, although he remains relatively inexperienced.
He has 72 senior appearances for Town to his name, 35 of them as a substitute, and he scored nine times in last season's npower Championship.
Meanwhile, Bruce will hope to sell his vision for the future to Gardner, who would effectively plug the gap left by Jordan Henderson when he made his big-money switch to Liverpool earlier this month.
It emerged at the weekend that the club's pursuit of the boyhood City fan was at an advanced stage, and Sunderland are keen to strike a deal as soon as possible.