Sunderland may well face stiff competition from teams above them in the football pyramid in a race to sign defender Dion Sanderson. 

The 21-year-old spent last season on loan with the Black Cats, making 28 appearances and scoring one goal and established himself as a popular figure amongst the Sunderland fanbase. 

He was voted as the Supporters Young Player of the Year for his contribution to Sunderland's 4th place finish in League One.

Fans were hopeful Sanderson would play a part in their play-off push but his loan spell was cut short thanks to a back injury in April. 

Amid interest in Sanderson's services elsewhere, Sunderland are now stepping up their efforts to sign the Wolves defender on a permanent deal according to the Daily Mail. 

His parent club may well command a sizeable fee but the Black Cats are hopeful they won't be outpriced in their pursuit for Sanderson. 

At the time receiving his Young Player of the Year award, Sanderson said: "My time here at Sunderland has been class.

"When I came here, all I wanted to do was just as much as I could to help the boys."

Sunderland released their retained list with seven senior players let go by the club. Charlie Wyke, Denver Hume, Luke O'Nien and Aiden McGeady have all been offered new contracts as Lee Johnson looks to build his squad for next season. 

It remains to be seen whether the affinity built between Sanderson and fans can be a point of persuasion in bringing him back to the Stadium of Light.