ASTON VILLA are the latest Premier League club to be mulling over a possible January move for Sunderland youngster Dan Neil.

Villa are known to have sent a senior scouting delegation to watch Neil in action on a number of occasions this season, with the South Shields-born 20-year-old enjoying a breakthrough campaign in Lee Johnson’s first-team squad.

Neil’s name is understood to have been amongst a list of potential targets presented to Steven Gerrard, with the Villa boss keen to continue his January squad strengthening with a couple of additions that have an eye on the future.

Having already recruited Phillipe Coutinho and Lucas Digne to strengthen his starting line-up this month, Gerrard wants to add a couple of youngsters who he can develop over the next couple of seasons.

Neil would fit that bill given that he only made his debut for England Under-20s this season and has not yet played at a level above the third tier.

Burnley have also been extensively linked with the North-Easterner, who signed a new four-year deal at the Stadium of Light as recently as October.

Sunderland’s hierarchy have consistently maintained they do not want to sell Neil this month, a stance that was adopted by sporting director Kristjaan Speakman when he spoke publicly a couple of weeks ago.

Johnson has also spelled out his desire to keep his current squad intact, with Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Accrington having enabled Sunderland to retain their position in one of the two automatic-promotion positions at the top of League One.

However, it remains to be seen how owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus will react if a Premier League club arrives with a seven-figure offer for Neil this month.

Johnson remains keen to bring in signings of his own this month, but the Black Cats boss faces an increasingly difficult battle as he looks to tie up a loan deal for Manchester City’s Patrick Roberts.

Roberts is set to cut short his loan deal with French Ligue 1 side Troyes in order to return to England, and Sunderland officials have held a number of discussions with the midfielder’s representatives and the hierarchy at Manchester City.

However, Wigan Athletic have now held talks of their own, and are pushing hard to persuade Roberts to shun a move to Wearside in order to join their own League One promotion push.

Sources in the North-West claim Wigan boss Leam Richardson is increasingly confident of being able to pull off a deal, with his side set to battle against the Black Cats for a place in the Championship next season.