SUNDERLAND will be prioritising the loan market as they look to strengthen their squad ahead of the start of new League One season, with Jack Ross admitting it will be hard to make any more permanent additions unless other players leave.

The Black Cats have made three signings this summer, with goalkeeper Lee Burge, full-back Conor McLaughlin and centre-half Jordan Willis having moved to the Stadium of Light.

Ideally, Ross would like to make a couple of attacking additions in the next couple of weeks, but with the club effectively operating a ‘one out, one in’ transfer policy in order to adhere to League One’s Salary Cost Management Protocols – the third tier’s equivalent of Financial Fair Play – the loan market might be the best option.

Last season, Sunderland loaned Kazaiah Sterling from Tottenham and Jimmy Dunne from Burnley, and while neither were first-team regulars, they both made useful contributions in the second half of the campaign.

Ross has held discussions with a number of Premier League clubs already this summer, and the loan market is likely to crank up in the next fortnight ahead of the top-flight transfer deadline on August 8.

“Loans would be an option, and that is something we are exploring,” said the Sunderland boss, in the wake of his side’s 1-0 defeat to Portuguese side Belenenses in their latest pre-season friendly on Saturday. “But it will depend how that fits with the squad, and what contribution they can make.

“If we can bring in one or two who can improve us, then we will, because the three who have come in so far have strengthened us as a squad.

“It’s exactly the same as before. I am working on one or two things with Tony (Coton) at the moment, subject to me being able to juggle a few things around. I’ve been honest and frank about the situation, and it is my job as the manager to get the best out of what I have got.”

Further permanent additions are not out of the question, with Walsall midfielder George Dobson still featuring prominently on Sunderland’s wanted list.

However, Black Cats officials are also working on potential departures, with Bryan Oviedo topping the list of players expected to leave before the end of the month.

The Costa Rica international is the subject of interest from a number of clubs on the continent – Rosenborg and Club Brugge have both made formal approaches to Sunderland – but his wage demands are proving problematic.

The full-back, who is Sunderland’s highest-paid player by a considerable distance after Aiden McGeady effectively spread his remaining wage payments over an extra year when he signed a contract extension earlier this summer, is due back in training later this week.

“He won’t return until the 25th of July,” said Ross. “He was pretty much straight from the play-off final to join up with Costa Rica (for the Concacaf Gold Cup).

“Their involvement in that tournament didn’t finish until June 30, so he’s basically getting the time back that he didn’t get in the summer and then we’ll see where he’s at and take things from there.”

Sunderland completed their Portuguese training camp with a 1-0 defeat on Saturday night, although the major positive to emerge from the game on the Algarve was the second-half substitute appearance of Max Power.

The Northern Echo:

The midfielder has recovered from an ankle injury faster than expected, and should now be available for the League One opener against Oxford United.

Fielding a 3-4-3 formation, Sunderland slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Belenenses, with Diogo Calila scoring the only goal of the game in the second half.

Sunderland: J McLaughlin; Willis (Ozturk 65), Flanagan, C McLaughlin (Baldwin 84); O’Nien (Diamond 84), Leadbitter (Power 72), McGeouch (Sammut 72), Hume (Gooch 72); Embleton (Maguire 72), Grigg (Wyke 65), Watmore (Kimpioka 65).