CHRIS COLEMAN is ready to move on his preferred attacking targets in preparation for the growing likelihood that Sunderland’s leading goalscorer will be leaving Wearside next month.

Lewis Grabban’s Championship experience and proven track record could be difficult to replace for the final few months of the Championship campaign, with Bournemouth considering recalling him early from his loan.

But Coleman, who ideally would like to bring in at least one different attacking option anyway, cannot afford to be caught out and is considering replacements for the day when he could depart.

Loading article content

Sunderland are not in a position to be able to compete on the financial front to make a permanent bid for Grabban because owner Ellis Short has indicated there is still no money to spend.

That means Championship leaders Wolves and promotion contenders Aston Villa, who are looking to strike a half-season loan with the guarantee of a full-time switch in the summer, are the front-runners to sign Bournemouth’s dangerous forward. There are also other clubs interested.

But Coleman can’t wait around and knows he has to have plans in place to keep his bid to keep Sunderland in the second tier moving in the right direction.

He can’t bank on anything being done quickly, but he will be looking for chief executive Martin Bain to do what he can to help in tight financial times.

The loan window remains the strongest possibility of doing things, which is why Liverpool’s highly-rated teenager Ben Woodburn is firmly in his thinking.

Despite the player’s tender 18 years, Coleman feels he can slot into the Sunderland squad and hold down a first team shirt having handed him his Wales debut.

Woodburn has emerged through the ranks as a striker but has played more in an attacking midfield role this year for the Under-23s and for Wales.

He can play anywhere behind a striker, but has found it hard to get chances with Liverpool because of the performances of Philipps Coutinho, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. He also has Dominic Solanke and Daniel Sturridge ahead of him, which is why Woodburn and Danny Ings are available for loan next month.

Bolton’s Birtley-born striker Gary Madine, who scored for the Trotters at the Stadium of Light in October, is another under consideration although he still has two years to run on his existing deal.

He is also keeping an eye on the situation of a number of other players in the Premier League who are finding it hard to get into their team.

Should Grabban, as expected, head back to Bournemouth to complete another move elsewhere and not be replaced then Sunderland will have James Vaughan as their only recognised experienced striker for the rest of the season.

The performances of Grabban had provided a few bright spots during a pretty depressing start to the campaign before Coleman was brought in, while the cameo appearances of Josh Maja and Joel Asoro recently have provided a bit of hope in an attacking sense.

Asoro and Maja were both introduced as substitutes against Fulham last Saturday and that sparked a response, with the latter scoring just five minutes later to secure three points.

Maja might have been given an opportunity earlier under Simon Grayson because of an impressive pre-season, only injury prevented him from figuring until last weekend when there had been a change of boss.

Now Maja is looking forward to working under Coleman and he feels the young players at Sunderland are all being encouraged to push for the first team because they feel they have a genuine chance of appearing.

He said: “It’s part of the game isn’t it (managers changing), you’ve got to keep proving yourself over and over again and I’m happy to make a start doing it.

“It doesn’t always happen, but Chris believes in us (young players) and gives us the opportunities. We have to take it but no matter what he gives us the chance and it is so good to be able to take it.

“He’s (Coleman) got more belief in each and every single one of the players, he’s helped us loads on the training pitch and off the pitch especially to give us that confidence and hopefully we can repay that in the future.”

Sunderland will have midfielder Lee Cattermole available again when bottom club Birmingham visit the North-East on Saturday. Despite his winning goal, it would be a surprise to see Maja start.