IGNACIO SCOCCO wants to ignore talk of a return to Greece by proving himself at Sunderland - and he was boosted last night to learn Gustavo Poyet seems set to stay on
Poyet, who moved for Scocco in January, has maintained that he wanted to lead the Black Cats in to his first full campaign in charge in August throughout speculation surrounding his future.
And the Uruguayan, who is thought to have been identified as a contender for the West Ham United job, learned yesterday that Sam Allardyce will start the new campaign in charge at Upton Park, bringing to an end any suggestion that Sunderland could face a fight to keep him.
Poyet will be pressing ahead with his plans to restructure his squad in the hope of ensuring there is no repeat of this season’s relegation struggles at the Stadium of Light.
Talks have already taken place with sporting director Lee Congerton and further discussions are ongoing aimed at tying down players such as Jack Colback and Seb Larsson, who are out of contract.
Poyet is keen to see attacking reinforcements drafted in over the next few months too and the success of those moves is likely to determine the future of Scocco.
The Argentine international, who has not earned a second cap since his debut in 2012, cost Sunderland £3m in January when Brazilian club Internacional granted his departure.
Despite signing a two-and-a-half year deal in the Premier League, there has been interest expressed in him from abroad after struggling to make an impact in his first four months in England.
Greek club Olympiacos, who can offer Champions League football, claim to have been offered him on a season-long loan, although his strong links with city rivals AEK Athens have put them off.
Scocco was a huge success during three years with AEK after signing for them in 2008. After a spell with Al-Ain, he headed back to South America to play for Newell’s Old Boys before moving to Internacional for £3.8m in July last year.
That move did not go to plan, so he ended up Sunderland and the 28-year-old would prefer to make a success out of his Sunderland stay after six disappointing appearances – even if the prospect of playing in Argentina again could appeal further down the line.
Towards the back end of the Premier League season, Poyet was the first to admit Scocco had struggled to shine. He is convinced, however, the forward could benefit with having more time to settle.
“I think the situation with Nacho is more difficult than what we expected,” Poyet said recently. “When you are a foreigner and you come to a new country, you know that it might take a few weeks or months to adapt. We are all different. The quality is there. You see it every day.”
It is likely to be a busy summer at Sunderland, but first and foremost it is about tying some of the old guard down to new deals.
Larsson is mulling over his next move. Hull City and Napoli have expressed an interest and the Sweden international has hinted he would rather stay in the Premier League.
Larsson’s agent Per Jonsson said: “They have suggested it (a new contract) and we’ll see what they come back with. We want to be clear with his future relatively soon. Preferably before the World Cup if possible.
“Sebastian loves England and has always done. He has not wanted to move from there before.”
Whatever movements there are over the summer, Sunderland fans can at least take satisfaction from the fact they are in the Premier League again next season. That looked unlikely at the start of the campaign, when Paolo Di Canio had failed to lead the team to a win in six matches.
Di Canio insists, though, that he was glad to see Poyet keep Sunderland in the top-flight. He said: “I’m happy for the fans because they are amazing. Their passion is amazing. I’m happy they stayed up.”
And the controversial Italian wants to be back in frontline management soon. He said: “I’m available and ready. I have a more positive opinion on my philosophy. I have to look forward.”