8:00am Saturday 23rd June 2012
By Paul Fraser
SUNDERLAND are hopeful George McCartney will still head back to West Ham United on a full-time basis.
The Black Cats are in the market for a new left-back this summer and are more than happy for McCartney to move on with 12 months remaining on his contract.
There were fears on Wearside that the Hammers' interest in spending £1.2m on another left-back would harm Sunderland's chances of having the Northern Irishman's weekly wage off the pay-roll.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has looked at paying a seven-figure sum for Dijon's Samuel Souprayen.
However, that would not affect Allardyce's desire to take McCartney back to Upton Park and talks at finalising a deal with Sunderland are expected to take place soon.
The 31-year-old was a key part of West Ham's rise back to the Premier League last season, when his season-long loan ended in a Wembley Championship play-off final win over Blackpool.
He was voted the players' player of the year and Allardyce is keen to have him back, provided he can avoid paying too much for him.
But Sunderland, who re-signed him from West Ham in 2008, are happy for him to leave the Stadium of Light before the start of the new season to free up some of the club's wage budget.
If McCartney does depart then manager Martin O'Neill will only have Kieran Richardson as a recognised left-back - and even he prefers to play in midfield.
Richardson, with just 12 months remaining on his contract, could also be sold if a suitable offer arrives, which is why O'Neill is so keen to strengthen his defensive ranks this summer.
He had considered a move for released Aston Villa defender Carlos Cuellar, while trying to lure Chelsea's promising full-back Ryan Bertrand on loan remains an option.
But O'Neill, who took Wayne Bridge on loan for the second half of last season, will not rush in to anything and hopes to have formed a squad capable of making further progress under him next season
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