SUNDERLAND could sell Connor Wickham this summer if the rejuvenated striker does not commit to a new deal before the end of the transfer window.
The Black Cats hierarchy are keen to avoid a repeat of the situation that saw homegrown midfielder Jack Colback leave for nothing last month.
Wickham has entered the final 12 months of the contract he signed at the Stadium of Light when he left Ipswich Town in a record-busting deal in 2011 which is still potentially worth £12m.
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After a fine end to the season proved the best spell he has had since moving to Wearside, Sunderland are keen to tie him down to new terms.
But if the 21-year-old shows a reluctance to agree an extension then he could be sold on to ensure he does not leave for a fraction of the price determined by a tribunal because he is under the age of 24.
Sunderland want to avoid that situation and are ready to enter discussions to keep him long term after impressing boss Gus Poyet with performances that kept the Black Cats in the top-flight.
Wickham the Premier League’s player of the month for April when he scored five goals in four games to lift Sunderland up off the foot of the table.
His return to form could not have come at a more opportune moment, with Jozy Altidore, Ignacio Scocco and Steven Fletcher all struggling to find the goals to guide Sunderland to safety.
Before that run he had struggled to justify his price tag and had been allowed to join Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday on loan. Middlesbrough were interested in a deal.
Sunderland are also working behind the scenes on incoming deals, with Cardiff City midfielder Jordon Mutch high in the thinking after missing out on Robert Snodgrass, who left Norwich for Hull.
Mutch, 22, has entered the final 12 months of his deal and Cardiff could be willing to offload him for around the £5m mark following relegation to the Championship.