Black Cats launch hitman hunt
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce and chairman Niall Quinn are scouring the transfer market for a striker to replace Darren Bent.
The club's hierarchy met to discuss potential targets as Bent yesterday put the finishing touches to his £24m move to Aston Villa.
Both men are acutely aware of the perils of spending in haste during the January window and the inflated prices often quoted, with Bent's fee perhaps an illustration just 18 months after he left Tottenham for an initial £10m.
They are looking for a man who could come in and do a job for the rest of the season and prove he can replace Bent on a long-term basis.
Monaco's Dieumerci Mbokani is a possible target, however Sunderland are unwilling to commit themselves to a big-money swoop without trying before they buy.
They are considering a series of targets closer to home, with Villa's John Carew, Cardiff's Jay Bothroyd and Stoke's Ricardo Fuller among those being considered as squad additions.
Sunderland's mission is complicated by the fact they have still to finish paying Tottenham for Bent under the agreement they reached during the summer of 2009, which also included a sell-on clause.
Villa too will hand over the cash for the 26-year-old on a phased-payment basis, meaning the Black Cats do not necessarily have a huge pile of ready money at their disposal.
The focus on Europe can be explained by the fact Barclays Premier League clubs are only allowed four domestic loan deals a season and only two at any one time.
Sunderland have Danny Welbeck and Nedum Onuoha on loan from Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, and both arrangements are set to run until the end of the season.
To bring in another temporary signing from an English club, the Black Cats would have to make one of those moves permanent, which Bruce admitted was unlikely before the situation with Bent arose.
Quinn has played down talk of a move for Tottenham's Robbie Keane.
He told Kildare TV: "What we are looking for to help [Asamoah] Gyan and Danny Welbeck along is probably a physical presence.
"Robbie works well off a big physical player, but we don't have that now. Robbie doesn't quite suit us now."
Bruce and Quinn need to find someone soon, to ease the burden on record signing Gyan.
Northern Ireland international David Healy was due to play for the reserves tonight after returning from a loan spell at Doncaster.
Welbeck is currently out of action with a hamstring injury, while Fraizer Campbell continues his comeback from the serious knee injury he suffered at the end of August.
Quinn revealed he had suspicions over Bent's state of mind up to three weeks ago.
He said: "Two or three weeks ago maybe, I went in to the training ground and there was something up with him.
"I looked at his demeanour and I thought, 'It's not right'. Having been in the game, you kind of know when someone's got something going on in their heads.
"It transpired that that's what had happened. They were setting him up to try and come and he took the bait."
But Villa responded in a statement, saying: "We wish to make clear that at no time did Aston Villa make an inappropriate approach to the player or unfairly compromise the business of Sunderland Football Club.
"Darren only became aware of his possible transfer after Sunderland's game against Newcastle on Sunday and after we had agreed with Sunderland the essence of the deal which led quickly to Darren's arrival at Villa Park on Tuesday."