SUNDERLAND have slapped a £5m price-tag on goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and are ready to open fresh contract talks in the hope of putting off interested clubs from the Championship.

In an attempt to keep the sought after shot-stopper after an impressive first year on Wearside, the Black Cats want to agree a new longer term deal with him.

McLaughlin has entered the final 12 months of his existing terms and that has led to Millwall expressing an interest in taking up a division following Sunderland’s failure to secure promotion.

But the Lions are only willing to pay a little more than £1m for him, which is not seen as enough by Sunderland just a year after cleverly picking up as a free agent.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross persuaded McLaughlin to head south at the end of his Hearts contract and he was hugely impressive in League One last season.

His performances have kept him in the eye of Scotland, where he has been regularly called up, and there are other Championship clubs believed to be interested.

Sunderland, though, would prefer to keep the 30-year-old and that is why they are keen to agree new terms with him, otherwise they could be faced with a tricky decision before the end of the transfer window.

Ross has just boosted his goalkeeper options by persuading Lee Burge to head for the Stadium of Light following the end of his long association with Coventry City. Those are the only two senior options between the posts following the departures of Max Stryjek and Robbin Ruiter.

If McLaughlin was to depart then Sunderland would be left short on numbers again, so they would have to consider other names to come in once more.

There is also interest in Aiden McGeady from the United States after he entered the final year of his contract at Sunderland. McGeady has expressed that he would like to extend his deal by a further year but that will be a decision the club’s owner Stewart Donald would have to decide, given he is a big earner in the squad.

Sunderland have returned to pre-season training and are gearing up towards their first friendly against South Shields on Thursday night.

And one player looking forward to being involved more than most is Duncan Watmore.

The 25-year-old has been unable to take part in a full pre-season schedule since 2016, with a spate of serious injuries preventing his involvement.

After recovering from a knee injury sustained in the 1-1 draw with Wycombe in March, Watmore is confident and feeling ready to go ahead of the new League One season on March 3.

“It’s been three years since I’ve had a full pre-season so I’m sure that will make a huge difference,” said Watmore, speaking to “It makes a big difference to fitness levels and my body is definitely feeling it after the first couple of days.

 “I’m really enjoying it, though, we’ve done some football stuff as well as some hard graft, so it’s been a good combination.

 “I’m really just trying to keep doing my gym work and everything I can because I want to stay fit and play minutes.

 “I want to play football games and the only way to do that is by working hard on and off the pitch and hopefully, with a bit of luck, I will stay away from the injuries and string a few games together.”

Watmore was disappointed to have had his latest season cut short cruelly again because of injury – and last season had the bitter pill to swallow of missing out on two Wembley outings.

"Everyone was so gutted at Wembley and it was horrible,” he said. "But all the lads have come back committed and determined to make sure that doesn't happen again this season. Everyone is raring to go. We have a great group of lads and everyone is raring to go for the new season.”

Former Sunderland manager Simon Grayson has been backed to lead Blackpool to promotion. Grayson has returned to the club where he started his managerial career in 2005 and he will head to the Stadium of Light on December 14.

Blackpool owner Simon Sadler said: “The goal is to get this club back in the Championship within the next few years, and Simon is the man to achieve that."