SUNDERLAND will have a new owner by the end of the week – and Mark Campbell’s first move will be to kick-start the club’s summer recruitment with bids for Harry Brockbank and John Marquis.
Campbell’s consortium are on track to complete their takeover before the weekend, with the English businessman set to replace Stewart Donald as the Black Cats’ majority shareholder.
Donald will retain a shareholding of around ten per cent, with Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven also continuing to hold a minority stake, but Campbell will have the casting vote over all major decisions and will assume control for charting Sunderland’s future direction.
The 46-year-old is understood to be heading a four-man consortium of English investors, with two members of the group boasting strong links to Sunderland.
Campbell, who boasts business interests in the UK and United States, has been the leader of the group from its inception, although it remains to be seen whether he will play a public role once his takeover is complete. Both Donald and Methven have put a lot of stock in being open and approachable during their time at the club, with their stance helping repair the previously-fractured relationship with the fans.
Campbell is set to appoint former Celtic scout John Park as Sunderland’s new director of football, and will retain Jack Ross as manager despite May’s play-off final defeat to Charlton Athletic.
Ross will be given the opportunity to strengthen his squad this summer, with automatic promotion the clear aim once the new League One season begins in August.
Sunderland have been linked with a number of players since the end of last season, but the change of ownership has effectively put a block on any deals being completed. That log-jam should be released in the next few days, enabling Ross to step up his recruitment drive.
A new forward is a key priority, and while Sunderland remain hopeful of persuading Lawrence Shankland to snub offers from a number of clubs in Scotland to move to Wearside following his release from Ayr United, Marquis remains a leading target.
The Doncaster Rovers striker was the subject of a number of approaches in January, but while he expressed a desire to move to the Stadium of Light, his employers stepped in to prevent him leaving the Keepmoat Stadium.
Doncaster’s failure to win promotion means he will almost certainly be moving on this summer, and Ross remains a huge fan of the 27-year-old, who scored 26 goals last season.
However, Sunderland will face a major battle to land Marquis, with a number of clubs in the Championship having approached Doncaster to signal their interest in the striker.
Millwall are interested in re-signing a player who left them in 2016 after progressing through their academy ranks, while QPR are also understood to be lining up a bid.
“If truth be told, John probably doesn’t want to be here,” said Doncaster boss Grant McCann. “He feels he deserves a crack at the Championship and so do I to be honest. I think to score 26 goals, he deserves the chance at a Championship club and we won’t stand in his way.”
Sunderland will attempt to persuade Marquis that he is better off remaining in League One and being part of a promotion push rather than scrapping in the bottom half of the Championship table.
They will also have to do a selling job to persuade Brockbank to move to Wearside, with the free agent also the subject of strong interest from the Championship.
Brockbank’s contract at Bolton Wanderers has expired, and Ross has identified the 20-year-old right-back as the ideal replacement for Adam Matthews, who has been linked with a possible return to Celtic following his release from the Stadium of Light.