Sunderland boss Steve Bruce will start this summer’s recruitment process on Monday morning as he attempts to pick up some early bargains.
Bruce has already met with chairman Niall Quinn and identified a series of potential Bosman free signings who could start the ball rolling with this season’s chronic injury problems having exposed the depth of his squad.
He told the Journal: “I had a meeting yesterday morning with Niall. It was about the way ahead and which way we are plotting and looking.
“I would expect us to be extremely busy this summer. There are a couple of Bosmans out there he now needs to take over.
“There are a couple of players we have identified and straight after the season has finished, we can talk to them.”
Sunderland have been heavily linked with Blackpool midfielder David Vaughan in recent weeks, and having dismissed suggestions they could be in the market for the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Miroslav Klose, will also target out-of-contract strikers.
Indeed, the Black Cats’ main concentration for the close-season will be on their front line with loan signing Danny Welbeck set to return to Manchester United and Bruce not confident of landing him on a permanent basis, and Fraizer Campbell facing the best part of a year on the sidelines with a second serious knee injury.
Having sold Darren Bent to Aston Villa in January, that has left the manager with only record signing Asamoah Gyan at his disposal.
Bruce said: “You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to work out where we have to start. It is the top end of the pitch, which is the most expensive.
“We have to go in [to next season] with at least four recognised strikers because we have seen what happens if you don’t.
“We have got one, so we have three more to sign, although having said that, [Stephane] Sessegnon has played well of late and gives us another option.”
Jay Bothroyd, Johan Elmander and John Carew have all been mentioned in dispatches, as has relegated West Ham’s Demba Ba, although several, if not all, of them are certain to have a series of suitors this summer.
Meanwhile, full-back Phil Bardsley picked up both the Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards at last night’s club dinner.
England midfielder Jordan Henderson was named Young Player of the Season.