JACK ROSS’ desire to keep Dylan McGeouch will not influence Sunderland’s pursuit of Walsall’s wantaway midfielder George Dobson.

It had been suggested that the Black Cats’ move for Dobson was based on him replacing McGeouch, who had been interesting Aberdeen.

The Dons have since signed another central midfielder in the form of Funso Ojo and that has strengthened the chances of Ross being able to keep his man.

Sunderland took the option on extending McGeouch’s contract despite his lack of game time last season which left the player questioning his future.

But the former Rangers, Celtic and Hibernian player showed in his time on the pitch what he has to offer and the departure of Lee Cattermole should boost his chances of playing.

Sunderland are still looking to add to Ross’ options in the middle of the pitch and Dobson is a player high in his sights.

There has been other clubs interested in the promising 21-year-old but the prospect of playing for Sunderland appears to have got into his head.

Walsall manager Darrell Clarke, the former Hartlepool boss, indicated over the weekend that his captain’s mindset wasn’t right for him to travel to Poland with the rest of the squad.

Clarke has now spoken more about the situation having decided to leave Dobson and Morgan Ferrier behind when the rest of the Walsall squad travelled for the pre-season camp – confirming that they want to leave.

Clarke told the Express and Star: "I chatted to both of them before and told them they weren't in the 22-man travelling squad – we'll review that when we get back.

"The players know there were bids that obviously weren't acceptable for the club and turned down.

"They've both shown a desire they would like to move on and that's where we stand – but things can obviously change quickly in football and we'll review it when we get back and see where we're at. They've been working hard with the youth team this week.

"I haven't had a problem with the boys' attitude, they haven't given me an ounce of problem. Morgan is very, very lively – he just needs a slap a few times, but that's Morgan Ferrier for you – and Dobbo is a model pro, so there are no problems there.

"But we want players that want to play for Walsall – they might have changed their opinion when I get back and will be keen to be part of this group.”

Sunderland have so far added three new players to the first team squad following the arrivals of Conor McLaughlin, Lee Burge and Jordan Willis.

Ross takes his squad to Portugal on Wednesday, where they will play two friendlies.  The first is against Benfica B on Thursday, July 18 at 7.30pm. The second is against Primeira Liga side Belenenses on Saturday, July 20 at 7.30pm.

Both will be played at the Estádio Municipal de Albufeira, with tickets priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.