SUNDERLAND remain determined to hold on to Elliot Embleton this summer despite Blackpool preparing a renewed approach for the midfielder.

Embleton spent the second half of last season on loan at Bloomfield Road, helping the Seasiders win promotion to the Championship via the League One play-offs.

His loan spell ended with Blackpool’s Wembley win over Lincoln City, and having returned to Wearside for the start of pre-season training earlier this month, he has been involved in Sunderland’s opening two friendlies against Spennymoor Town and Hearts.

Lee Johnson regards him as a key part of his plans for next season, and discussed Embleton’s importance to his side’s midfield play in the wake of Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Tynecastle.

However, Blackpool remain determined to re-sign the 22-year-old, with their manager, Neil Critchley, having identified Embleton as one of his key summer targets.

“When the players aren’t yours, the decision isn’t yours either because you’re governed by what other clubs think about them and decide,” said Critchley at the weekend. “It’s never in your hands.

“Elliot is back at Sunderland and Jordan (Gabriel) is back at Nottingham Forest, and I’m sure they will be trying to impress in pre-season to try and get in their team. But we’ll keep an eye on them, that’s for certain.”

The Sunderland hierarchy are aware of Blackpool’s ongoing interest, and are anticipating a formal offer in the next few days.

At this stage, though, there is a strong determination to hold on to Embleton, who signed a contract extension until the summer of 2022 shortly before moving to Blackpool in January.

Sunderland’s midfield has already undergone significant change this summer, with Grant Leadbitter, Max Power and Josh Scowen all leaving at the end of last season and both Alex Pritchard and Corry Evans arriving as new signings.

Johnson does not want to have to start ripping up his plans in the event of Embleton leaving, and both sporting director Kristjaan Speakman and owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus are supportive of his stance.

Sunderland have been linked with a loan deal for Preston full-back Joe Rafferty in the last few days, although with the 27-year-old having entered the final year of his current contract at Deepdale, the Preston hierarchy are not believed to be interested in a temporary switch.