DICK ADVOCAAT is ready to turn to Stewart Downing in his search for proven Premier League experience but Sunderland could face strong competition from the forward's hometown club Middlesbrough.

West Ham United are entering a new era under Slaven Bilic and he could be willing to listen to offers for Downing following Sam Allardyce’s exit.

That has alerted Advocaat who has made a new wideman a priority before the start of the new season and is set to move for the the 30-year-old this week.

The Sunderland head coach is desperate to make progress on the transfer front and is battling with West Ham for full-back Carl Jenkinson. He is also known to have an interest in Leeds’ Sam Byram and is set to conclude a £4m deal for Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates after his Copa America outing.

But Advocaat also wants to freshen up his attacking line-up and is keen to recruit players with proven Premier League quality after suggesting to sporting director Lee Congerton and club owner Ellis Short that lessons have to be learned from recent relegation tussles.

Downing is seen by both Advocaat and Congerton as one of those capable of slotting straight into life at the Stadium of Light and being a success on Wearside.

The Teessider has spent the last two years at West Ham and enjoyed his most successful season in years under Allardyce when he earned an England recall under him following his blistering start to the last campaign.

His return to form coincided with Allardyce asking him to play in a more central attacking midfield role and he operated effectively as the ‘No 10’ for the Hammers benefited both him and the club.

There is likely to be other interest in the Middlesbrough-born England international but Sunderland would stand a great chance because it is close to his childhood roots. He also had a successful short month loan spell there under Mick McCarthy in 2003.

Steve McClaren was the Boro boss who allowed him to head out for experience at that time and on his return he went on to be a key member of the team at the Riverside for the next six years. McClaren has not shown any interest at this stage as Newcastle’s new head coach.

Middlesbrough could yet provide an alternative if chairman Steve Gibson opts to make a surprise statement of interest in the transfer market.

He still has two years to run on his contract but Boro are exploring ways of making a huge impact in the Championship and intend to drive for an automatic promotion place. Downing’s reputed £80,000-a-week wage could pose a problem.

That is why Sunderland are the front-runners.