WILL GRIGG remains Sunderland’s number one striker target despite speculation linking the Black Cats with a possible move for Barnsley’s Kieffer Moore.

The Black Cats hope to complete the signing of Middlesbrough midfielder Grant Leadbitter within the next 24 hours, and Jack Ross remains determined to land a striker ahead of Thursday’s transfer deadline to replace the outgoing Josh Maja, who is joining Bordeaux.

Sunderland officials made an inquiry about Moore at the start of the month, but they have not taken their interest any further and a formal approach is not believed to be imminent.

Instead, the Wearsiders remain hopeful of landing Grigg, even though their first two offers were rejected.

Grigg’s ankle injury is not as serious as first feared, and Ross is ready to make a final push for the 27-year-old in the next couple of days. If that proves unsuccessful, he will look elsewhere.

Grigg has averaged more than 20 goals in his last four seasons in the third tier of English football, and found the net 19 times as Wigan won promotion to the Championship last season.

Latics boss Paul Cook remains reluctant to lose him, but he has been unable to offer regular first-team football in the first half of the season and the Sunderland hierarchy remain confident they will be able to pull off a deal before the transfer window closes on Thursday night.

Sunderland’s bargaining position has been strengthened by the deal they have agreed with Bordeaux over Maja, with the French club having agreed a package that could be worth £3.5m.

The Black Cats do not receive all of that money up front, but there is a good chance the clauses in the deal will be met and they have also negotiated a sell-on fee for any future transactions.

Maja is expected to tie up his move to Ligue 1 over the weekend, and his transfer should be formally confirmed at the start of next week.

Sunderland are hoping to have concluded talks with Leadbitter by then, with the midfielder having turned down offers from at least three Championship clubs in order to pursue a return to his boyhood team.

The Northern Echo:

The 33-year-old will agree a substantial wage cut to return to the Black Cats, having grown frustrated at his lack of involvement in Middlesbrough’s first team this season.

Leadbitter has been a regular presence in the cup competitions, but has not made a single league appearance under Tony Pulis since the middle of August.

His lack of action alerted a number of Championship clubs to his possible availability, and Ipswich Town, Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers are all known to have made formal approaches since the transfer window opened.

However, even though all three clubs would have been willing to pay higher wages than Sunderland, Leadbitter rejected everything that was put to him.

That changed when Sunderland formalised their own interest, with the central midfielder expressing excitement at the possibility of ending his career at the club that enabled him to take his first steps in the game.