SUNDERLAND will step up their attempts to sign Leeds United goalkeeper Robert Green, with Simon Grayson targeting an experienced number one to head the Black Cats’ goalkeeping division next season.

Vito Mannone followed Jordan Pickford out of the Stadium of Light exit door yesterday when he signed a three-year deal to complete a £2m move to Reading, with Sunderland opting to cash in on the 29-year-old Italian rather than run the risk of losing him for nothing next summer, when his contract was due to expire.

Max Stryjek was between the sticks as Sunderland beat Hartlepool United in a friendly on Tuesday night, but while the 21-year-old is regarded as a capable deputy, Grayson wants a more experienced goalkeeper in his starting line-up next season.

He has inquired about QPR’s Alex Smithies, who he managed at Huddersfield United, but would have to pay up to £8m to prise the former England youth international from Loftus Road.

As a result, he has been focusing his attention on Green, whose future at Leeds was thrown into significant doubt when the Elland Road club signed Felix Wiedwald earlier this month.

New Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen is keen to make Wiedwald his number one, a situation which will almost certainly result in Green moving on this summer.

The former England international will turn 38 in January, and while he only signed a one-year contract extension in the second half of last season, he will not want to spend the next nine months sitting on the bench.

Sunderland can offer a guarantee of regular first-team football, and Grayson will hope to receive permission to speak to Green and his representatives before the weekend.

Leeds’ players are currently on a training camp in Austria, but Sunderland officials will attempt to secure Green’s early release if they can agree a suitable fee with Leeds officials.

Given the 37-year-old’s age, and the fact he only signed up to another short-term deal when he extended his stay in West Yorkshire last season, the Black Cats will be reluctant to pay much more than £1m, given they only received £2m for Mannone’s sale.

As well as looking to add his to his squad, Grayson’s thoughts are also turning to the line-up for Sunderland’s opening Championship game against Derby County a fortnight tomorrow, and Josh Maja is determined to do everything he can to earn himself a place in the match-day squad.

Maja has been on the fringe of Sunderland’s first-team squad for a while now, but his senior involvement to date has been restricted to a substitute appearance in last season’s EFL Cup win at QPR.

That is likely to change this term, with the departure of a host of senior stars forcing Grayson to turn to some of his club’s emerging talents.

Maja, an 18-year-old Londoner who spent time on Fulham’s books before moving to the North-East, is regarded as one of Sunderland’s brightest teenage prospects, and scored his third pre-season goal from the penalty spot in Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Hartlepool United.

He is likely to get another chance to impress when the Black Cats return to action at Bradford City on Saturday, and is targeting a place in the squad that will face Derby on the opening weekend.

“The next three games (against Bradford, Scunthorpe and Celtic) are really important for me because I want to try and make my mark so I’m in the side, or on the bench, against Derby,” said Maja.

“Hopefully, I can stay in the squad and keep impressing the manager, and if I do that, I’ll hopefully get my opportunity and take it this season.

“I’ve been working hard in training, listening to the players and coaches who have helped me get through the sessions and games, and that’s helping me improve as a player.

“I think I’ve done really well because I’ve dealt with the physical side of the game as well as the technical side, but I have to keep pushing and make sure I maintain that standard.”