SUNDERLAND remain hopeful of persuading Luke Garbutt to sign at the Stadium of Light, although fellow full-back Demetri Mitchell has also been offered an opportunity to stake a claim for a place in Phil Parkinson’s squad.

Garbutt, who is a free agent after his release from Everton at the end of last season, is Parkinson’s number one left-back target as he looks to secure come competition for Denver Hume.

The Harrogate-born 27-year-old spent more than a decade with Everton after progressing through their academy system, but made just 12 senior appearances for the Premier League club.

However, he embellished his reputation in the lower leagues with a series of successful loan moves, the most recent of which saw him spend the whole of last season in League One with Ipswich Town.

Ipswich have held talks in an attempt to sign him permanently, but Sunderland officials have also issued a formal contract offer and are awaiting an update from the full-back’s representatives.

Garbutt is expected to resolve his future in the next few days, with most League One clubs now back in full training as they prepare for the start of the new Football League season on September 12.

Sunderland’s players have been back at the Academy of Light for more than a week now, and Mitchell has spent the last few days training with the Black Cats’ first-team group.

Like Garbutt, the 23-year-old is also a free agent after he was released from Manchester United earlier this summer.

A left-back who has represented England at every representative age group from Under-16s to Under-20s, Mitchell made his only senior appearance for Manchester United under Jose Mourinho on the final day of the 2016-17 season.

He has played the vast majority of his senior football with Scottish Premiership side Hearts, having completed two loan spells at Tynecastle. The most recent, which ran from August 2018 to March 2019, saw him make 34 appearances, scoring two goals.

He has spent much of the last 12 months recovering from a serious knee injury, but is now fully fit and hoping to secure a permanent contract for next season. Parkinson offered him an invitation to undergo a trial on Wearside, and a decision over his future is expected in the next few days.

Sunderland’s summer rebuilding project is already well underway, with the club having signed Bailey Wright and Aiden O’Brien as well as agreeing new terms with Tom Flanagan.

Wright’s return following a successful loan spell last season was confirmed last week, with the Australian centre-half signing a two-year deal with the Black Cats.

“It’s nice to finally get the deal done after what’s been an interesting few months,” said Wright, in an interview with the SAFC Unfiltered podcast. “I can’t wait to get in and start pre-season.

“I knew when I came on loan in January that the possibility of signing permanently would be there. Talks had been ongoing for a while, but I’m glad we got it done.”

Wright played as part of a back three in the second half of last season, and with Flanagan and Jordan Willis also on board, there is every chance Parkinson will stick with the same formation next term.

“The system is something I’ve really enjoyed playing in,” added Wright. “When I spoke to the gaffer, when he first wanted to bring me into the club, he saw me playing in the middle of the back three.

“A massive part of me wanting to come to the club was the manager and the group of lads we had. I only played five games, but I loved the feeling I received from everyone in the club and everyone around the place.”

Meanwhile, Ethan Robson has signed for Sunderland’s League One rivals Blackpool following his release from Wearside last month.

Robson has signed a two-year deal at Bloomfield Road, with the option of a further year, and is determined to get his career back on track.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Sunderland, which is where I’ve grown up and developed over the years,” said the Wearsider.

“But after speaking to Neil Critchley and hearing what he had to say about the team and where he wants to take it, I felt it was a journey I wanted to be a part of. Blackpool is on the up, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings here.”