SUNDERLAND are pondering a move for Blackburn Rovers midfielder Richie Smallwood in the final four days of the transfer window, but Marc McNulty could find himself heading through the Stadium of Light exit door as Jack Ross tries to lure the loanee striker to Hibernian.

Phil Parkinson has spent the last few days assessing midfield targets, but his attempts to push through a deal have failed to come to fruition.

Talks over a loan deal for Greg Docherty continue to stall because of financial matters, with Sunderland reluctant to meet Rangers’ demands over the 23-year-old’s wages.

Shrewsbury Town have shown little willingness to sell Oliver Norburn, with next week’s lucrative FA Cup fourth-round replay at Anfield set to swell the Shropshire club’s coffers significantly and reduce the need to raise funds through the transfer market.

Manchester United youngster James Garner remains a loan option, but Parkinson would ideally like to add some more experience to his midfield, hence his increased interest in Smallwood.

The former Middlesbrough midfielder has not made a single Championship appearance for Blackburn this season, with his only first-team involvement coming in the Carabao Cup.

The 29-year-old has entered the final six months of his current contract at Ewood Park, and with Tony Mowbray having conceded that he is unlikely to form part of his plans in the second half of the season, Blackburn officials are willing to accept a nominal fee to move him on.

A return to his native North-East would appeal to the central midfielder, who was raised in Dormanstown, near to Middlesbrough.

However, Sunderland are not the only club to have inquired about his situation in the last few days, and Smallwood could be offered an opportunity to remain in the Championship with Wigan Athletic, Huddersfield Town and Barnsley all having been linked with a possible move.

Ideally, Parkinson would like to make at least two more signings before the transfer window closes on Friday night, with a midfielder and a left-back currently topping his list of priorities.

At this stage, he does not feel he needs another striker, but that could change if either McNulty or Will Grigg was to move on.

McNulty’s loan deal from Reading could be terminated to facilitate an alternative arrangement, and Ross remains keen to be reunited with the 27-year-old, who was his main summer target when he was still Sunderland boss.

McNulty spent the second half of last season on loan at Hibs, and is bound to be concerned at his recent lack of involvement on Wearside.

He was an unsused substitute in Friday’s goalless draw with Doncaster Rovers, and finds himself behind Charlie Wyke and recent signing Kyle Lafferty in Parkinson’s attacking pecking order.

Ross is keen to boost his firepower at Easter Road, and is expected to discuss McNulty’s position with officials at Sunderland and Reading in the next couple of days.

“We are pushing to try to get two players in, and I am hopeful of at least two this week,” confirmed Ross, in the wake of Hib’s weekend draw at Motherwell. “If we do that, we will be in a better position. We might do more, but certainly two in and no more out would be the plan for this week. Hopefully, that proves to be the case.”

Grigg’s future remains uncertain, with Swindon Town and Salford City both still interested in securing his services.

However, both clubs would need Sunderland to pay a significant proportion of the Northern Irishman’s wages, something the Black Cats are reluctant to do. As things stand, Sunderland remain adamant they do not want to loan Grigg to anyone who could be a promotion rival in League One.

Sunderland return to action at Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday, and while the club’s initial allocation for the game has sold out, an additional 450 tickets will go on sale from the Stadium of Light box office tomorrow morning.

Tranmere’s Prenton Park pitch was in a dreadful condition for Sunday’s FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, but despite more rain being forecast, officials at the club are confident Wednesday’s game is not at risk.