Stewart Donald must deliver Sunderland supporters a parting gift and rebuff Premier League interest in teen sensation Adam Richardson, amid rumoured interest from Wolves and Manchester United.
According to The Sun (15/11, p65), Wolverhampton Wanderers are leading the race to sign Richardson and are confident of a deal with the January window fast approaching.
The 17-year-old’s efforts in the Black Cats academy have also sparked club chiefs to pay attention at Old Trafford, having already raided the Stadium of Light for teenage left-back Logan Pye this year.
Manchester United poached Joe Hugill for a measly £300,000, too, and have seen the 6 ft 2 centre-forward with a wand for a left foot impress from the off with a brace in his U18 Premier League debut before striking three in five PL2 appearances.
But Hugill and Pye are not seemingly set to be reunited with Richardson, as the young goalkeeper is said to be on course for a deal with Wolves that the Molineux outfit hope to wrap up early in the New Year.
Richardson only penned his first professional Sunderland contract this February, committing his future to the Black Cats ahead of a move into the U18s after eight years at the club.
Sunderland fought off top-flight and Championship interest to keep the exciting 17-year-old and will be hopeful of doing so again as Wolves and Manchester United circle the North East.
With Donald in talks with a consortium led by minority shareholder Juan Sartori and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus to sell Sunderland, the Oxfordshire-based businessman can end his spell as majority owner by handing Black Cats supporters a parting gift and retain Richardson.
His efforts in the youth grades also made it pivotal for the Stadium of Light natives to agree a first professional contract with Richardson following efforts with England’s U17s, who noted at the time of his deal just how proud being a Black Cats player was to him.
“I’m incredibly proud to have signed this contract and I can’t quite believe it,” he told the official Black Cats website. “I have been at Sunderland since I was eight, so it means a lot to me to have committed my future to the club.”
Academy goalkeeping coach Mark Prudhoe added how highly Sunderland staff rate Richardson, too, noting: “I am delighted that Adam has signed a contract with the club. He is a great young goalkeeper coming through our system and we are all excited by his potential.
“Hopefully he can eat that potential up, and if he does, I think we might have another graduate coming along sooner rather than later.”
Sunderland fans will no doubt be infuriated if the Black Cats allow Richardson to leave, having already lost emerging stars Pye and Hugill in the last year alone.