SUNDERLAND are battling with Scottish Premier League and Championship clubs in a bid to boost their firepower for a second season in League One.

The Black Cats are looking to win the race for free agent Lawrence Shankland and Jack Ross is well aware of his ability to find the net, having scored 34 times for Ayr United last season.

Sunderland have not confirmed that they have already offered a deal to Shankland, although it is clear they are seriously interested in having him on board.

But Ross will have to use all of his powers of persuasion, with the help of backing from the board ahead of Mark Campbell’s takeover next week, to land the 24-year-old ahead of higher ranked clubs.

As well as fellow League One club Portsmouth rivalling Sunderland for his signature, Championship clubs Swansea City, Hull City and Nottingham Forest have all made contact.

Scottish giants Rangers and Celtic have also monitored him closely over the last nine months, as well as Hearts.

Sunderland have identified the forward line as an area that needs improvement before the start of the new campaign.

Will Grigg and Charlie Wyke struggled to hit the form in front of goal to fire Sunderland to promotion after the departure of Josh Maja in January.

Duncan Watmore and Chris Maguire are two players capable of filling that role, but they can are more adept at more supporting roles.

Sunderland want another option to lead the line and Shankland is one of those that has been on the club’s radar for a number of months.

Stewart Donald, the Sunderland owner who is currently in talks to sell the majority of his share, has insisted this week that takeover talk has not stopped them from making progress on the transfer front.

There will be a drive to reduce the wage bill further, with Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo the two most likely big earners to leave, but Sunderland also want to have fresh faces on board before pre-season training begins.

Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing and goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos have been considered, although Sunderland are reluctant to go anywhere near to what they have been earning at the Riverside.

Downing, while keen on staying close to his Teesside home, is edging closer to a move to Blackburn where he would team up with former Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray.