PHIL PARKINSON has been told by Kyle Lafferty that the Northern Ireland striker wants to stay on Wearside next season – an ideal reward if he can power Sunderland to promotion to the Championship.

Lafferty only signed on a short term deal in January as a free agent after leaving Sarpsborg in Norway but he has had to bide his time while Charlie Wyke led the line alongside Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch.

Even though Wyke could be fit again after a back problem to face Bristol Rovers tonight, the 32-year-old is expected to retain his place at the top of the Sunderland system given his two goals on his first start for the club in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Gillingham.

No decisions are likely to be made over expiring contracts until it is clear what division Sunderland are in, but Lafferty is already clear what he would like to happen in the summer when it comes to deciding his next move.

“I’d love to stay here,” he said. “I said when I first joined here, if I was given the opportunity in my much younger years I would have come here.

“It’s a massive club and to get the chance to play for this football club at 32 years of age, it’s a nice feeling. The manager gave me a chance and the only way I can repay him is performances and goals. Hopefully Saturday’s goals sends me in the right direction.”

Lafferty, who had a nine game loan spell at Darlington in 2006 from Burnley, has played in Italy, Switzerland, Scotland and Norway as well as in the Premier League and Football League. He is well placed to pass judgement on the mood at Sunderland, having played a key role in Northern Ireland’s push to the last Euros too.

Given he will only have been in the North-East for five months when the season comes to a close, it would be a lovely way to end that initial stint by doing what he can to help Sunderland return to the second tier of English football – with a few goals too.

“The only thing we can do is focus on our own football,” said Lafferty. “We’re good enough to go on and win the next nine games and if we do that we’ll get promoted in the top two.

“But there’ll be twists and turns throughout the league, but we just need to focus on ourselves, turn up every week and play the way we’re capable of playing. I’m sure we’ll get the results that put us in a nice position.”

Sunderland head to Bristol Rovers tonight sitting three points shy of second placed Rotherham having conceded a late equaliser against Gillingham. With nine games remaining, though, automatic promotion is still very much in the thinking and that is what Parkinson wanted after succeeding Jack Ross in November.

“I hope I can stay in the side on Tuesday, hopefully I’ve done enough to get the nod,” said Lafferty. “Sometimes goals aren’t enough, it’s the overall play and bringing the team into play that is more important as well.

“Hopefully the manager sees I’ve done enough and I’ll get the nod. If I get the nod, and hopefully I do, then I’ll go out looking for goals. I feel confident of scoring in every game and I know in this team I’ll get chances.”

While Lafferty hopes to be handed new terms come the summer, he is not the only one whose deal will be due to expire. In total, including loan signings, there are 13 first team squad members whose contracts will run out.

Duncan Watmore, Luke O’Nien, Tom Flanagan, Alim Ozturk, Chris Maguire and goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin are among those whose futures are to be decided. A lot will depend on what division Sunderland find themselves in as they look to return to the second tier.