SUNDERLAND are hoping Antonio Conte will make a decision over Jack Clarke’s future before his Tottenham squad fly to South Korea for a pre-season tour later this month.

The Black Cats are keen to re-sign Clarke, whose performances during last season’s loan spell at the Stadium of Light were a key factor in the club winning promotion from League One.

Talks have taken place between Sunderland’s recruitment team and the hierarchy at Spurs, with the Wearsiders understood to be pushing for a permanent deal for the 21-year-old winger.

Sources in London claim Spurs are actively considering selling Clarke, who has entered the final year of his current deal in north London, but are waiting for Conte to finalise his squad plans for the new campaign.

The Italian has been extremely active in the transfer market this summer, swelling his midfield and attacking ranks with the addition of Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma and Richarlison, and it is widely anticipated that Clarke will be deemed surplus to requirements.

He has not been told to move on yet though, with the clock ticking ahead of the start of the new Championship season at the end of this month.

Clarke is due to return to pre-season training with the rest of Tottenham’s non-international players this week, with Conte set to confirm the make-up of his squad for the club’s trip to South Korea in the next few days.

Spurs’ players are due to fly to South Korea on Saturday, July 9 ahead of friendlies against a K-League select XI (July 13) and Sevilla (July 16). If Clarke is selected to go on the trip, it will have a significant impact on Sunderland’s transfer plans as he would not be due to return to the UK until less that two weeks before the opening weekend of the Football League season.

Ideally, Alex Neil would like Clarke to be part of Sunderland’s pre-season preparations in Portugal rather than jetting to the opposite side of the world to play for Spurs.

The Black Cats accept they face competition for the winger’s services whatever happens, with Sheffield United also having made contact with Spurs officials to lodge their own interest in the York-born youngster.

However, with Clarke having hugely enjoyed his time on Wearside last season, there is a strong hope that Sunderland will be negotiating from a position of considerable strength if they get the opportunity to discuss a formal offer with the wide-man and his representatives.

The Wearsiders’ recruitment team also remain hopeful of re-signing another of last season’s promotion winners, Nathan Broadhead, although Richarlison’s departure from Tottenham has clouded the situation slightly with Everton boss Frank Lampard now understood to be reluctant to lose any more attackers before he has been able to make a forward signing of his own.

Sunderland played behind-closed-doors training matches against both Gateshead and Blyth Spartans at the weekend, with the Black Cats selecting a mixture of first-teamers and Under-21 players for the two 60-minute games.

“The boys have come in, they’ve been great and they have worked really hard, but you have to get game fitness as well,” said assistant head coach Martin Canning. “Having two games in one day is an opportunity to get the whole squad some minutes in their legs. It’s great for the young kids to play with the senior players.

“There has been a lot of running, but a lot of the hard work is done with the ball as well. They’ve had plenty of touches, and the next progression now is the games. We’ve had two, and then we step it up and look forward to the season.”