SUNDERLAND have made Aiden O’Brien their first new recruit of the summer, with the Republic of Ireland international having signed a two-year deal at the Stadium of Light.

O’Brien was a free agent following his release from Millwall at the end of the season, and the Black Cats beat off competition from a number of clubs to secure his services.

Phil Parkinson is in the process of overhauling his attacking resources this summer following the departure of Kyle Lafferty, Antoine Semenyo and Duncan Watmore. The Black Cats boss is also willing to listen to offers for Will Grigg, although at this stage, Sunderland have not received any viable offers for the Northern Irishman.

O’Brien’s signing represents a positive start to the transfer window, with the 26-year-old having proven himself in the Championship and League One since emerging from Millwall’s academy ranks in 2011.

He had loan spells at Crawley Town, Aldershot and Torquay United at the start of his career, before establishing himself in Millwall’s first-team squad at the start of the 2014-15 season.

He made 226 appearances during his time at the Den, scoring 44 goals, but while he started the current campaign as an important member of Gary Rowett’s squad, he did not feature at all in Millwall’s post-lockdown matches.

His release was confirmed at the start of last week, prompting Sunderland’s recruitment team to step up their interest.

“It feels terrific to be a Sunderland player,” said O’Brien. “This is a massive club and I just can’t wait to get going. I love scoring goals – it’s what I live for and hopefully I can bring plenty to the team. I can’t express how excited I am, and I can’t wait to show the fans and my team-mates what I’m made of.”

A four-time Ireland international, O’Brien scored his only goal for the senior Ireland team in a friendly against Poland in September 2018.

“I’m really pleased with the signing of Aiden,” added Parkinson. “He’s at a good age, he has experience of winning this division and he has played plenty of Championship football. Aiden can also play in a variety of attacking roles, which I feel is important for us. We are delighted to welcome him to the club and we are looking forward to working with him.”

Parkinson’s squad-building project cranked into gear at the end of last week when Tom Flanagan re-signed, and the Sunderland boss remains hopeful of adding fellow centre-half Bailey Wright to the ranks in the next few days.

Like O’Brien, Wright is a free agent following his release from Bristol City. He enjoyed his time on loan at Sunderland in the second half of last season, and has always regarded a return to Wearside as an attractive option.

Parkinson’s current squad returned for the start of pre-season training on Wednesday, with their action restricted to fitness testing and small group sessions as they ease their way back into things over the next few days.

Grant Leadbitter was a notable attendee, with the Wearsider now back in training after he was granted some time off for compassionate leave before lockdown.

Leadbitter has not played since the start of January after Parkinson conceded the midfielder has some personal issues to resolve, but he remains under contract and could yet play a significant role in Parkinson’s plans for next season.

Aiden McGeady is not back in training, although his post-lockdown exertions with Charlton Athletic mean he was never intended to report back at this stage.

Even so, it is hard to imagine the Irishman having a future under Parkinson, with the pair’s relationship having broken down at the start of the year.

That resulted in McGeady joining Charlton on loan, but the Addicks’ relegation on the final day of the Championship season means they are unlikely to be able to put together an acceptable deal to sign him permanently. As a result, another loan deal is likely to be the easiest way for Sunderland to move McGeady on again this summer.