SUNDERLAND have been dealt a blow in their pursuit for a new striker as Aston Villa plan to hold onto frontman Cameron Archer this season rather than send him back out on loan.

The 20-year-old has been the subject of interest from a number of clubs at Championship level after some eye catching performances with the England Under-21’s as well as a strong loan spell with Preston North End last season, where he scored seven goals in 20 appearances.

The Lilywhites were set to compete with the Black Cats for his signature while Middlesbrough have also been credited with an interest in their pursuit of a striker.

However, after spending pre-season with the Villa first-team, Archer will be retained beyond the current transfer window and will provide competition for a place in the team against Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings.

Manager Steven Gerrard told Premier League productions: "We’ve made a decision with Cameron Archer that he’ll be staying in the door. He will be part of the first team group and needs to be ready when called upon to contribute to the team."

Sunderland currently have Ross Stewart and Everton loanee Ellis Simms as options for strikers while Jack Clarke can also be used as a centre forward.

After the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Coventry City, Alex Neil told media that they were still looking to make ‘four or five’ signings before the end of the transfer window as he looks to add depth going into the Championship campaign.

He said: “We need to make sure the squad is competitive and not only that, they brought four or five really fresh lads on who know the level, and that can really make a difference

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do in the window in terms of strengthening the squad. I would argue we’re still under-strength at the moment. We lost seven players after last year, and we’ve added three, maybe four. We’ve certainly still got numbers to add to make us stronger.”

The Black Cats have missed out on a number of targets this summer including Tottenham striker Troy Parrott, who sealed a loan move to Preston North End, and Jack Rudoni, who decided on making a permanent move to Huddersfield Town. John Ruddy was an initial target at the beginning of the summer but he has since made a move to Birmingham City.