CHRIS RIGG wants to hold talks with Sunderland’s new head coach before deciding whether to sign his first professional contract with the Black Cats.

Sunderland’s search for a permanent successor to Michael Beale has been ongoing for almost four months, but Kyril Louis-Dreyfus finally broke his silence at the end of last week to issue a statement claiming an appointment is now imminent.

Pascal Jansen and Rene Maric remain leading overseas candidates, while QPR boss Marti Cifuentes was the latest domestic-based figure to be linked with the vacancy at the Stadium of Light over the weekend.

Whoever is eventually announced as the new head coach will inherit a series of issues that need addressing, a number of which relate to the future of key members of last season’s first-team squad. While Kristjaan Speakman remains in overall control of transfer matters, Sunderland’s new head coach will be expected to have an input into both incomings and outgoings.

Jack Clarke, Jobe Bellingham and Dan Neil are all the subject of outside interest, but Rigg’s situation is the most pressing as the teenager will be able to sign professional terms after his 17th birthday on June 18.

The Sunderland hierarchy have held a series of discussions with Rigg and his representatives, and have outlined the terms of a deal they feel is an attractive proposition when coupled with the likelihood of securing regular first-team football on Wearside next season.

However, there is strong external interest from a number of quarters, with Manchester United long having been at the head of a batch of clubs who are hoping to prise Rigg from Sunderland’s clutches for what would be a relatively low fee this summer.

Newcastle United are also known to be keen to secure a deal for the Hebburn-based midfielder, and Rigg took to social media at the end of last month to congratulate his England Under-17s team-mate, Leo Shahar, on signing his first professional deal with the Magpies.


Rigg and his team are aware of the interest from within the Premier League, and have been weighing up the appeal of a move to the top-flight, with the significant increase in wages that would inevitably entail, against the competing attractiveness of remaining with Sunderland and continuing to develop within the Championship.

The latter option will clearly be more appealing if Rigg is playing regularly under a head coach who trusts and believes in him and can help him develop, and who is able to restore Sunderland to a position in the top half of the table.

As a result, Rigg and his representatives want the opportunity to talk to whoever is eventually appointed on Wearside before making a firm decision over where to sign a professional deal. Those discussions, when they eventually take place, could be crucial to determining the teenager’s future.

Sunderland have been linked with a potential midfield incoming in the last couple of days, with reports suggesting they are interested in Burnley’s Scott Twine.

Twine joined Burnley from MK Dons in 2022, but has only made 18 senior appearances for the Clarets. The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Hull City and Bristol City, and is expected to be jettisoned this summer as Burnley look to restructure their squad following their relegation from the top-flight.

Twine, who cost Burnley £4m when he moved from MK Dons, has also been linked with Bristol City and Birmingham.

Meanwhile, Sunderland centre-half Dan Ballard enjoyed a magical moment with Northern Ireland on Saturday night, only for things to eventually go wrong in Palma.

Ballard headed home from a free-kick after just 70 seconds as Northern Ireland took on Spain in a friendly, but once Pedri levelled ten minutes later, the hosts cut loose in a manner that suggests they could be a team to watch at the forthcoming Euros. Alvaro Morata and Fabian Ruiz scored either side of a second from Pedri, with substitute Mikel Oyarzabal adding a fifth Spanish goal just before the hour mark.

“We couldn’t have got off to a better start than we did,” said Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill. “But I think we met a team that was highly motivated, a team that is going to the finals, and probably with their strongest line-up or very close to it bar one or two players.”