SUNDERLAND are preparing to test Hartlepool United’s resolve in January with a double swoop for stars Jack Baldwin and Luke James.
The pair have been in fine form for Colin Cooper’s Sky Bet League Two side so far this campaign with impressive displays at either end of the pitch.
Central defender Baldwin, 20, has helped Pools to record eight clean sheets so far this season, while teenage striker James, 19, has already bagged 10 goals.
Cooper has recently admitted that the scouts list that lands on his desk on match days was growing by the week and it is understood Premier League neighbours Sunderland have watched highly-rated pair Baldwin and James in recent matches.
Gus Poyet’s team currently lie bottom of the Premier League with just eight points from 15 matches - and they remain five points adrift of safety,
It is unclear how much the Uruguayan head coach will have to spend when the January transfer window opens at the start of next month but the Wearsiders are understood to be casting their net wide for young and hungry British players.
Both Essex-born Baldwin and James, from Amble, would fit that bill.
It is understood that the Black Cats are not necessarily looking for players to slot straight into their first team, whether that be one that plays in the Premier League or the Championship next season.
But younger players to bolster their Under21/Development squad, with one eye firmly fixed on the future at the Stadium of Light.
Whether that is a move that would interest either Baldwin or James remains to be seen but there is also the possibility that the pair could be loaned back to the Clarence Road club for the remainder of the Sky Bet League Two campaign.
It is no surprise interest is gathering in the Pools’ players and Cooper himself said increasing numbers of scouts have been flocking to Victoria Park.
Speaking last month, Cooper said: “I don’t think it is any coincidence that the scouts list that lands on my desk on match days is filled with people and is getting longer.
“And rightly so, not just for Luke [James], but for quite a few players in the team. We are quite a young squad and a young team, bar one or two more experienced players.”
Meanwhile, Sam Collins’ Hartlepool United reserve side were beaten 5-0 by a strong Sunderland side in a behind-closed doors match earlier this week at the Black Cats’ Academy of Light base.