Sunderland strikeforce linked with switches south to help Hull
Hull City, 7/2 chances with Coral for a top 10 finish, are set to raid boss Steve Bruce’s old side Sunderland in search of a replacement for striker Shane Long, who was recently sold to Southampton for £12m.
The Tigers hierarchy are understood to be making all the cash available to reinvest in the squad, and can offer the carrot of Europa League football to prospective targets. Chief among those are Black Cats centre forwards Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham.
Gus Poyet is expected to pair them up front for Sunderland’s Premier League season opener away to West Bromwich Albion, but Bruce, who managed the Wearside outfit between 2009 and 2011, is keen on recruiting the pair.
Wickham, 21, has one year left on his Black Cats contract, and that may tempt Poyet into selling him now, rather than run the risk of losing him for nothing next summer. Bruce brought the player to the Stadium of Light, however, and the chance to link up with him again may be appealing, as a run in Europe may enhance Wickham’s England credentials.
It is Scotland striker Fletcher, 27, who the tabloids believe to be Hull’s top target, however, despite his recent injury struggles. He netted 11 Premier League goals in his debut season for Sunderland, but scored just three times during a difficult campaign last term.
Bruce will not be deterred by that though and, with the Euro 2016 qualifiers kicking off in September, Fletcher will be keen to cement his status as a first-choice option to lead national coach Gordon Strachan’s attack.
The Tigers must negotiate a two-legged play-off before they enter the Europa League group stage. Odds of 80/1 say Hull can go all the way and lift the trophy on their first-ever continental campaign. Sunderland, meanwhile, are 11/4 chances to finish in the top 10.