PHIL PARKINSON does not want to wait until the latter stages of the transfer window for Sunderland’s squad to have the improvements he feels is required.

The Black Cats boss is looking for owner Stewart Donald to back up his claims that he will help the drive for reinforcements even though he is looking to sell the club.

Parkinson knows the visit of Lincoln City on Saturday is the first of five games in January so the sooner new signings can be made the better in his bid to ensure the four-point gap to the play-off zone doesn’t get any wider.

Sheffield Wednesday’s proven striker Sam Winnall is a target again, just like he was in the closing stages of the winter window a year ago when Sunderland signed Will Grigg.

Winnall has entered the final six months of his contract and expects to leave the Championship outfit, and Sunderland have had him on their radar since his impressive spell at Barnsley.

Strengthening Sunderland’s attack is an area of priority for Parkinson and he admitted over the festive period that Bristol City’s teenager Antoine Semenyo is in his sights.

The former Bolton manager wants extra pace and power to call on having relied so heavily on Charlie Wyke’s aerial ability in attack since taking over.

Winnall does not seem keen to leave on loan in January given his expiring contract but it would be a surprise to see him stay at Hillsborough beyond this month because he has not been playing under Garry Monk of late.

The 28-year-old said this week: “It depends on if I’ve got the option. That’s out of my control. Like I say, I don’t want to look too far into the future, I want to concentrate on getting myself into the team. That’s the most important thing at this time.

“I’ve got six months left on my contract so a loan move is irrelevant. That’s out of the question. I don’t know, whatever happens in January happens.”

Sunderland’s squad is regularly lauded as one of the best in League One – if not the best – by many rival managers. Parkinson has claimed that it is imbalanced since taking over, though, and he has worked hard to improve team spirit.

The decision to allow Aiden McGeady to find a new club has meant Sunderland have lost the team’s most creative talent, but sources close to the dressing room feels morale has improved.

Sunderland are also lacking cover for left-back Denver Hume following Laurens de Bock’s decision to request to return to parent club Leeds early.

Parkinson said: “Laurens has gone back, he wanted to go back to Belgium. Leeds had the option to call him back. That is more wages we can utilise in the window. Luke O’Nien can play there, he is two footed, Conor McLaughlin can play on the right and Lynden Gooch can play wingback but now becomes an area to strengthen, we don’t want to leave ourselves light in any area. I want to make sure we have cover in all areas.”

Sunderland have back-to-back home dates now with Lincoln and leaders Wycombe. There have been signs of improvement over the festive period, with Sunderland unbeaten in four even though they have only won one of those games.

Parkinson is due to have a conversation with new Grimsby Town boss Ian Holloway to determine whether midfielder Ethan Robson returns to Wearside. He has impressed on loan at the Mariners.