Blues chiefs plot swoops via video

SUNDERLAND are refusing to comment on a report in the North East that Ipswich Town have had a joint offer of �5million for Black Cats' skipper Dean Whitehead and Daryl Murphy accepted.

Stuart Watson

SUNDERLAND are refusing to comment on a report in the North East that Ipswich Town have had a joint offer of �5million for Black Cats' skipper Dean Whitehead and Daryl Murphy accepted.

The Sunderland Echo claimed that Town manager Roy Keane had successfully negotiated a deal with his former club to bring midfielder Whitehead and striker Daryl Murphy to Portman Road.

The report came on the back of a comment by Keane on Tuesday that he hoped to talk to two players in the next 48 hours.

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Ipswich Town chief executive Simon Clegg last night refused to add to Keane's comments. He said: “The situation is that we are still talking to players' agents and clubs about the final make up of this squad before the start of the season.

“Marcus Evans, Roy Keane and myself had a video conference on Thursday morning (yesterday) about contract situations and the progress that has been made over the last couple of days.

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“Contract negotiations are not straight forward and you can get hitches at the last moment. I understand the fans' excitement, but it would be unfair to say anything until the ink is on the paper.”

He added: “Roy identifies the players and he is very pragmatic. He realises the sort of budget we can afford in the Championship and has come up with some really sensible and cost effective ways of providing competitive football.”

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn was more interested in talking about players coming in than those leaving Wearside.

Among his reported targets are former Ipswich striker Darren Bent, who Tottenham value at �16.5million.

The Black Cats have also tabled a bid for Portsmouth striker Peter Crouch and are understood to have been in touch with Manchester United youngster Fraizer Campbell's representatives.

New manager Steve Bruce and his players got down to business yesterday with Quinn working hard behind the scenes on transfers.

Quinn said: “There's a great excitement around the place and, after all the talking we have been doing for the last six weeks, it's all now down to the action.

“The players coming back is a big thing. The place is a hive of activity.”

Quinn has acknowledged that Manchester City defender Richard Dunne is a target, although he is yet to discover whether the Republic of Ireland international is available.

To date, only Michael Chopra and former Colchester United favourite Greg Halford have left the club, and it seems likely that there will be further departures even though Bruce has promised every player a chance to prove himself.

They will play their first pre-season friendly at Darlington next Thursday and the chairman admits he cannot wait to see Geordie Bruce get down to business.

Quinn told the club's official website, “He's clued in. He's with it. Above all, he understands and he gets what this area is all about in football terms.

"Whether he was born five or six miles left or right, that's not the point. The point is that he knows what gets a north east crowd at the edge of their seats.”

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