SUNDERLAND manager Peter Reid has identified Derby County striker Malcolm Christie as a back-up target if he fails in a last-ditch bid to persuade Robbie Keane to move to the Stadium of Light.

The Republic of Ireland's World Cup talisman this week turned down the chance to talk to Sunderland after the Wearsiders agreed a fee of around £8m with Leeds.

Keane insists he wants to stay at Elland Road and fight for his place when a managerial successor is found for the sacked David O'Leary.

Reid has been in further negotiations with Keane's representatives, SFX, in the hope that Keane will rethink his position.

But 23-year-old Christie, a former shelf-stacker who Derby plucked from the obscurity of Nuneaton Borough for £50,000 four years ago, is already in Reid's thoughts and a £7m offer could prove irresistible to the relegated Rams.

The Black Cats' boss is also understood to be eyeing Chelsea's Eidur Gudjohnsen, but may find it hard to prise the Icelandic striker away from Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Sunderland will take on La Liga side Seville at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium nine days before they kick off their Premiership campaign at Blackburn.

The Seville game is on Thursday, August 8, and Sunderland are hoping to arrange another friendly in Spain two days later.

Before then, they travel to France to face Amiens and Belgium for games with St. Truiden, Royal Antwerp and Gent.

* Sunderland's Stephen Capper and Mark Rossiter are in the Republic of Ireland squad for the European Under-19 Championships later this month.

Teammate Ben Clark is in the England squad for the tournament in Norway, which starts on July 21.

Keith Graydon, another Sunderland rookie, is on stand-by for Ireland.

* Sunderland are anxiously awaiting a response from promising midfielder Thomas Butler on their latest offer of a new deal.

The 21-year-old is now out of contract but the Black Cats have presented him with a series of improved offers which are yet to meet his requirements.

However, the club remain hopeful of persuading the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, who made his senior debut at Charlton last season, that his future lies at the Stadium of Light.

''Thomas has been offered a number of vastly improved terms by the Black Cats but has turned them down,'' said a club spokesman on the player who has spent time on loan at Darlington.

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