SUNDERLAND will continue to adopt a hardline stance over the future of Didier Ndong, despite the midfielder claiming he is willing to take a pay cut to return to the first-team fold.

Ndong is understood to have flown into the North-East at the weekend, with his representatives hoping to hold face-to-face talks with Sunderland officials today.

The Gabon international has been on an unauthorised absence since the start of pre-season, having refused to return to training as he attempted to engineer a move away from Wearside.

Those attempts failed, and with Europe’s transfer windows now closed, it appears as though Ndong is trying to reintegrate himself into Sunderland’s first-team squad.

Having previously claimed he was reluctant to return to England because he feared he might be arrested, a number of African media outlets carried quotes over the weekend suggesting Ndong had indicated he would take a pay cut if it meant he could play for the Black Cats between now and the end of the year.

Ndong, who is understood to be earning around £25,000-a-week despite his pay being automatically reduced in the wake of 2017’s relegation from the Premier League, is set to be represented by both the PFA and his chief agent, Seb Ewan, when he meets with the Sunderland hierarchy.

However, having dismissed Papy Djilobodji earlier this month because he was unhappy with the French defender’s conduct, Sunderland owner Stewart Donald is in no mood to acquiesce to Ndong’s demands.

If anything, Donald and his fellow director, Charlie Methven, believe Ndong’s conduct has been even more reprehensible than Djilobodji’s as the midfielder was not given permission to miss any of the pre-season period.

He has returned to the North-East later than Djilobodji, and pulled out of a number of proposed summer deals, most notably with the Italian side Torino, because he refused to reduce his personal demands.

Jack Ross has consistently insisted he does not want Ndong to return to his squad, and the Sunderland boss is unlikely to soften his stance given the potential disruption the African’s presence could cause.

“There has been no dialogue with me,” said Ross, in the wake of Sunderland’s weekend win over Rochdale. “I did read a report that one of his representatives had been in contact with me - that is not the case.

“I know there has been communication with the club, some of his representatives or people who portray themselves as his representatives, but I don’t know any more than that.

“It has been a long complicated matter, we thought we were getting close to a solution, we will see how that pans out. Certainly today, it is of zero interest to me. We will see how it plays out over the coming days.”

Ross was much keener to talk about his side’s performance as they ended a three-game winless run to climb to third position in the League One table.

“People will look at the response to us losing last week, and if you take that in isolation, to win the game 4-1 is very good,” said Ross. “There are always bits we can do better, but in the main, there were bits we did well.

“We were a lot more physically resilient than last week in particular, and that was pleasing. When we do that, then the other side of the game can come to the fore.”