SUNDERLAND’S hopes of signing Tom Cannon have suffered a blow, with the Everton striker closing in on a loan return to Preston.

And the Black Cats’ attacking options could be reduced further in the next few weeks with Southampton lining up a formal move for injured striker Ross Stewart.

Stewart is not expected to be fit for the start of the new Championship season as he is still recovering from the Achilles injury that kept him out of the second half of last term.

However, that has not stopped him from being the subject of mounting transfer interest from a number of Sunderland’s Championship rivals.

Stoke City have held discussions with the Black Cats hierarchy over Stewart, who has entered the final year of his contract on Wearside, with Middlesbrough also known to be interested in the Scotland international.

It is Southampton that currently lead the chase for his services though, with Russell Martin’s overhaul of his squad at St Mary’s having gathered pace considerably over the last week.

With a number of players leaving the Saints, Martin is ready to reinvest some of his club’s transfer money into the purchase of Stewart, who has scored 40 goals in 80 appearances since joining Sunderland from Ross County.


The Black Cats already need at least one new forward, despite the arrival of Hemir earlier this summer, but their hopes of landing Cannon look like being dashed, with Sunderland having been pushing for a permanent transfer for the 20-year-old.

Cannon was not involved in Everton’s weekend friendlies against Wigan Athletic and Tranmere Rovers, and was instead photographed attending Preston’s pre-season game with Aberdeen at Deepdale.

Cannon spent the second half of last season on loan at Preston, and looks set for a return to the Lancashire club on loan rather than a switch to the Stadium of Light.

“It’s not fair to speak about TC at the moment because he’s not our player,” said Preston boss Ryan Lowe. “Everyone knows how we feel about TC and he knows, but ultimately he’s Everton player. When we are given the nod – if we are – to be able to do something, then we’ll obviously look to do it.”