Where should North-East clubs turn for deals?

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

NEWCASTLE UNITED confirmed their first summer signing last week, Middlesbrough followed it up on Tuesday by finalising Grant Leadbitter's return to the North-East and there is a sense of more to come.

Clearly the Magpies and Boro were keen to make quick moves in the transfer market, while Sunderland are seemingly intent on holding off until after Euro 2012.

But this summer promises to be a busy one for all of the North-East's big three teams - even Hartlepool United have been quick to begin their reshuffle by adding Jonathan Franks.

Understandably Newcastle, after securing fifth in the Premier League, are not keen to make too many changes, which could all change if some huge money offers come in for their big players.

A new right-back and centre-back are highest on the agenda following the arrival of versatile midfielder Romain Amalfitano. Lille's French full-back Mathieu Debuchy is the most likely signing.

But what Pardew - aware of the extra strains the Europa League will bring next season - must ensure is that he can resist the likely overtures from Champions League clubs for some of his key assets, like Demba Ba, Cheik Tiote and Tim Krul.

At Sunderland, on the other hand, it is going to be about starting again for Martin O'Neill. He might not have a huge transfer budget to work to, but he will be keen to put his own mark on the squad he inherited from Steve Bruce.

Steven Fletcher, Yakubu, John Guidetti, Junior Hoilett and Steven Pienaar are among those to be under consideration by O'Neill.

He would also like Adam Johnson, although it is likely that demand for the Easington-born winger will be high if Manchester City cash in.

As well as replacing striker Nicklas Bendtner after his loan from Arsenal, O'Neill is keen to consider all viable options on the transfer front if it means he can improve the squad.

That means it is not as simple as saying he would like a striker and a left-back - two particular areas of concern. Instead, while keen to fill both roles, he knows he can ill-afford to rule out a good deal if it presents itself in other areas.

The future of Stephane Sessegnon has been the subject of speculation for a number of months, while Kieran Richardson and Lee Cattermole are both entering the final year of their contracts, so players could be moved on.

And at Middlesbrough, were ten players are due to reach the end of their contracts at the end of next month, there is sure to be significant changes in the coming weeks. Leadbitter is likely to be just the start, with Emmanuel Ledesma, Mustapha Carayol and Jacob Butterfield among a healthy list to be in the frame.

The problem manager Tony Mowbray will have is trying to make the alterations to his squad on a tight budget. The number of signings he makes - and at what cost - will determine who leaves this summer.

At Pools, meanwhile, Neale Cooper is actively pursuing a number of targets, with Inverness winger Johnny Hayes, Leicester's Steve Howard and Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Grounds all among his targets.

All four clubs need changes to help progress from last season, which realistic signings would you like to see arrive in the North-East?


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