Wickham 10m bid accepted by Town
SUNDERLAND are hoping to push through a £10m deal for Connor Wickham before Liverpool harden their own interest in the Ipswich Town striker. Black Cats officials tabled an improved offer for Wickham early yesterday morning in an attempt to steal a march on their Anfield rivals. The bid, which is understood to involve a down payment of around £8m and a series of additional clauses that could see the final fee rise to £10m, was accepted at Portman Road. Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has already made contact with Wickham's representatives, and is hoping to hold face-to-face discussions with the teenage striker today with a view to beginning a medical. However, the Black Cats chairman is unlikely to have things all his own way, with Liverpool expected to step up their own pursuit of Wickham now that Sunderland have declared their hand. Kenny Dalglish is a long-standing admirer of the 18-year-old, and Wickham's camp are well aware of the Liverpool boss' desire to lure him to Anfield. Wickham's family are Liverpool supporters, and the youngster is understood to have outlined his determination to join the Reds during this month's European Under-21 Championships in Denmark. Liverpool's situation is complicated by their pursuit of other players though and, significantly, there has not yet been any formal contact between Anfield officials and their counterparts at Ipswich. Dalglish is involved in negotiations aimed at signing former Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing, Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam and Arsenal full-back Gael Clichy, and had been hoping to hold off making a bid for Wickham until those situations were resolved. He may now opt to channel some of his funds towards a rushed bid for the youngster, but while there are considerable sums at his disposal this summer, he will be reluctant to sanction an outlay that could prevent him landing any of his other targets. As a result, Sunderland officials remain hopeful they can pull off a notable coup by luring Wickham to Wearside. The Hereford-born youngster played youth football with Reading, but made his professional debut for Ipswich in April 2009 as a 16-year-old. He scored his first league goal in a 1-0 win over Scunthorpe last March, and was named Championship Player of the Month this February. Wickham signed a contract extension in April, committing himself to Ipswich until 2014, but the Suffolk club's failure to win promotion to the Premier League last season has made it impossible for them to hold on to him. If he was to move to Sunderland, his transfer would be a notable coup that would cap a hectic start to the transfer window for the Black Cats. Kieren Westwood and Seb Larsson will both be formally confirmed as Sunderland players on Friday, while Ji Dong-won has agreed the formalities of a £2m move from South Korean side Chunnam Dragons. Craig Gardner's £5m move from Birmingham City should go through within the next 48 hours, as the midfielder is close to finalising personal terms with Sunderland officials. Gardner scored ten goals as Birmingham were relegated to the Championship last season, and should provide the kind of attacking midfield threat that Sunderland have lacked in recent years. This time last year, Cristian Riveros was being heralded as the answer to the club's midfield problems, but the South American's unsuccessful spell at the Stadium of Light appears to be nearing an end as he is in talks with Kayserispor about a season-long move to Turkey. Riveros signed a three-year deal when he left Mexican side Cruz Azul last summer, but made just five Premier League starts in the whole of last season.
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