Race for Sunderland target John Souttar

Dundee United's John Souttar
Dundee United's John Souttar
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BLACKBURN Rovers have joined Sunderland in the race for Scottish teenage hot-shot John Souttar, with Dundee United looking to sell to the highest bidder.

Sunderland saw a £400,000 bid rejected for Souttar during the transfer window after being impressed by the 16-year-old’s fast-track promotion to the first-team picture in the SPL.

The Black Cats are expected to return with an improved offer for Souttar in the January transfer window, as the club looks to expand its model of signing promising youngsters and developing them.

But the Echo understands that Sunderland will face competition from Blackburn, with the Championship outfit also keeping a close eye on the centre-half.

That is welcome news for Dundee, who are looking to maximise their return on Souttar.

It is thought that Dundee have not set an asking price for Souttar, but will encourage the prospect of a bidding war between several interested parties, in the hope of driving the fee up.

Souttar admitted last week that the interest from Sunderland was flattering, but the Scotland Under-19 international is being cautious over when he makes the move over the border.

“You have seen people going down south and some of them just fading away,” he said.

“Then you see others who have done exceptionally well, like James McCarthy getting a move to Everton for £14m. You need to look at both sides.

“You have to look at him and try to do as well as he has done. Everyone wants to play down in England, play at the highest level possible.”

Meanwhile, rookie Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has returned to League Two Burton Albion on loan.

Pickford made three appearances for the Brewers last month after joining them on a season-long loan, before a minor knee injury saw Sunderland recall the England under-19 international.

But after resuming full training at the Academy of Light this week, Pickford has now returned to the Pirelli Stadium and the 19-year-old is expected to feature in today’s clash with Portsmouth.

Burton boss Gary Rowett said: “Jordan impressed us during his brief time with us and we are delighted to have him back.

“It was always our intention to bring Jordan back to the club after his initial spell was cut short and we believe he will improve our squad.”