Saturday 24 June 2017

Irish star duo on Sunderland's wish list

Ireland player Robbie Brady in action. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland player Robbie Brady in action. Photo: Sportsfile

Miguel Delaney

Sunderland want to make a double Irish swoop to try and save themselves from relegation, by signing Norwich City's Robbie Brady and taking James McCarthy on loan from Everton.

While Norwich are willing to sell Brady to whoever meets their £12m (€13.75m) valuation, Goodison Park sources say manager Ronald Koeman is now much more reluctant to let McCarthy go.

The 26-year-old midfielder's future has been in doubt since the start of the season, with Irish manager Martin O'Neill saying in October he has to "fight like mad" for his first-team place, amid a public dispute with Koeman. It had been anticipated that McCarthy would move on this January, especially with Everton's £22m (€25m) signing of Morgan Schneiderlin from Manchester United, but it is understood the club now want to keep him. With Idrissa Gueye at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, and Tom Cleverley having gone on loan to Watford, the Dutch coach requires back-up in midfield and sees McCarthy as a more mobile option than 35-year-old Gareth Barry.

On the other side, Celtic are so far one of the few clubs to express serious interest in the Glasgow-born midfielder beyond Sunderland, but they would not be able to come close to matching his wages.

Sunderland are just the latest club to express interest in Brady, along with Burnley, Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Aston Villa. Norwich manager Alex Neil made clear on Friday that he would be willing to sanction a sale so long as the club's valuation is met, meaning Brady could have his pick.

David Moyes is understood to be keen to take Brady on, and feels he could be the difference-maker in Sunderland's battle for survival, but the fact they are still so far off safety makes the move that bit more unattractive. Brady must pick his club carefully, as there is a danger he could find himself in the same situation he was with Norwich City last summer, having just joined them in the Premier League only to then get relegated.

Burnley, Palace and West Ham are in superior positions, and there is also more tentative interest from champions Leicester City, who monitored Brady in the summer. Aston Villa are with Norwich in the Championship, but the fact manager Steve Bruce has worked with Brady at Hull City could yet prove persuasive, not to mention the fact that the Birmingham club are willing to heavily invest to re-establish themselves as a Premier League club as quickly as possible.

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