SUNDERLAND are mulling over the option of signing former Scotland striker Leigh Griffiths on a season-long loan from Celtic.

The Black Cats continued their pre-season preparations with a 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday, but as well as working on his players’ fitness ahead of the start of the new season, Lee Johnson is also attempting to restructure his squad.

A final decision over Denver Hume’s contract situation is expected this week, while Sunderland continue to be heavily linked with Middlesbrough duo Hayden Coulson and Andrew Nelson, but it is the possibility of signing Griffiths that has created most interest this weekend.

The 30-year-old has suffered a difficult couple of seasons, with personal issues limiting his involvement with Celtic’s first team.

He started just seven Scottish Premier League matches last season, with his last league start having come in January’s home defeat to St Mirren, and only last week he was being investigated by Police Scotland following allegations he sent inappropriate messages to a teenage girl.

Griffiths was cleared on Wednesday, but Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou appears to have concluded that he does not envisage the former Scotland forward being part of his first-team plans next season.

Sunderland officials are aware of his availability, with Johnson weighing up the pros and cons of a move. At his best, Griffiths is an international-class striker who is more than capable of filling the gap left by Charlie Wyke, who turned down a new deal with Sunderland in order to move to Wigan Athletic. The key question is whether Griffiths is capable of reproducing the kind of form that saw him named Scottish Player of the Year in both 2013 and 2016.

A final decision is expected this week, with Johnson also keen to resolve Hume’s contract position one way or the other in the next few days.

The full-back became a free agent when his former Sunderland contract expired last month, but has continued to recover from injury at the Academy of Light while his representatives have held a series of discussions with the Black Cats’ recruitment team.

Hume has also received contract offers from elsewhere – Sunderland would be due a compensation payment if he was to leave – but while Johnson concedes there are still financial issues to resolve, he remains hopeful the Ashington-born defender will sign a new deal on Wearside.

“At the moment, the state of play is just that there is no agreement in place,” said the Sunderland head coach. “I think there’s a will there at both ends, but at the same time, there is a bit of a gap.

“He’s not quite on the open market because we are able to get compensation, but effectively he is open to offers. It’s been a bit of a sticky one either way, but we are hopeful of a resolution either way relatively shortly.

“Denver is still injured after his hamstring operation, but he’s getting treatment with us so he’s still in our building, if you like. I’m sure it’s frustrating for him at times, but all you can do at these times as a coach or a technical director or a club is be open and honest with a player. We don’t always agree, but at the same time, I think both parties respect the openness and honesty.”

Even if Hume remains on Wearside, Sunderland will still need another left-back, with Coulson regarded as a viable option. Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock is willing to listen to offers for the 23-year-old North-Easterner, who can also play in midfield.

“We need another left-back anyway, no matter what happens with Denver,” confirmed Johnson. “You always want two for every position.”

As well as monitoring Coulson’s position, Sunderland have also held talks with Boro over Nelson, an 18-year-old centre-half who spent last season playing with Boro’s Under-23s. The centre-half, who is a boyhood Sunderland fan, could be added to the Black Cats’ youth ranks.

Sunderland enjoyed a successful day on Saturday as two first-half goals from Aiden McGeady secured a 2-0 win over Hearts.

Summer signings Corry Evans and Callum Doyle were both involved as Johnson’s side rounded off their Scottish trip with a comfortable success, although fellow summer signing Alex Pritchard was not involved after testing positive for Covid last week.

Sunderland’s opening goal came in the 14th minute, with Ross Stewart being upended in the penalty area by the Hearts goalkeeper, who was also called Ross Stewart. McGeady stepped up to convert his spot-kick low to the goalkeeper's left.

Aiden O'Brien drilled a shot against the underside of the crossbar five minutes before the break, but there was still time for the visitors to claim a second goal before the interval

Lynden Gooch beat two Hearts defenders before teeing up McGeady, who claimed his second goal of the afternoon at the near post.

Sunderland: Patterson, Winchester (Taylor 76), Doyle (Younger 76), Flanagan, Dyce (Diamond 46), Neil (Evans 61), Embleton, McGeady (Wilding 76), Gooch, O'Brien (Richardson 61), Stewart (Grigg 61).