Fletcher set to finalise Sunderland switch

Steven Fletcher
After a drawn-out transfer saga Steven Fletcher's transfer to Sunderland looks near completion. Photo: PA

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill was today closing in on his number one summer target as Steven Fletcher headed for Wearside.

The 25-year-old Wolves striker was due to open talks over his protracted switch to the Black Cats after the two clubs finally agreed a deal.

Press Association Sport understands Fletcher was due in the north-east to discuss personal terms and to undergo a medical with a view to completing his move ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League fixture against promoted Reading at the Stadium of Light.

Given Sunderland's dogged pursuit of the Scotland international, who earlier this month handed in a transfer request in an effort to hasten his exit from Molineux, O'Neill will hope for swift progress.

However, having finally negotiated the tortuous process of reaching agreement with Wolves, the Black Cats boss will take nothing for granted.

The fee is understood to be in the region of £12million, despite suggestions from the Midlands that it is considerably higher, although Sunderland have taken a firm stance in their valuation of a player for whom several previous bids had been rejected.

That is a sizeable investment in a man who cost Wolves £7million just two years ago, but an illustration of O'Neill's belief that he could be central to his club's immediate and long-term future.

Wolves have refused to conduct a fire-sale in the wake of relegation and chief executive Jez Moxey has insisted for much of the last few weeks that the club's top players were simply not for sale.

But with the deadline fast approaching, they now appear ready to do business over at least one of their prized assets.

Despite being relegated from the Premier League twice in three years, first with Burnley and then with the Black Country club, Fletcher has managed to score 30 top-flight goals, a creditable return in struggling sides.

The Scot would provide the focus the Black Cats have been looking for ever since Darren Bent's shock departure for Aston Villa in January last year.

Steven Bruce's failure to replace either Bent or loan signing Danny Welbeck before Asamoah Gyan's defection to United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain left the club painfully short of firepower, and although Fraizer Campbell's return from injury and Nicklas Bendtner's arrival on loan last season helped to plug the gap, they could not save the manager's job.

O'Neill inherited a squad which was always going to lose Gyan and Bendtner at the end of last season, and until he landed Frenchman Louis Saha earlier this month, his attacking options were limited to Campbell and youngsters Ji Dong-won, Connor Wickham and Ryan Noble.

Fletcher has always been close to, if not at, the very top of his summer wish-list, and a successful conclusion to talks would represent a significant boost to his hopes for the new campaign, which began with a creditable 0-0 draw at Arsenal last Saturday.

The manager will not stop there, however, with Manchester City winger Adam Johnson, among others, still firmly in his sights.

It is understood no one has yet matched Sunderland's offer for Johnson with just a week of the transfer window remaining, and that could leave them in a strong position to land the local boy.