WEST HAM are leading a pack of ELEVEN clubs vying to land Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback on a free transfer.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet is eager to launch a fresh round of contract talks with Colback now that the club’s Premier League status has been assured, after the 24-year-old rejected several offers over a new deal earlier in the season.
But SportMail understands that they face a major battle to keep hold of Colback’s services, with almost a dozen sides keen on signing the midfielder on a Bosman.
West Ham are now thought to be the front-runners among those suitors, despite previous reports that Newcastle United were in pole position for the Sunderland academy product.
While the Magpies are interested, the Hammers would almost certainly be able to offer Colback a more lucrative package, particularly as there would be no transfer fee involved.
They are not alone, with Colback’s reliability and impressive performances during Sunderland’s run-in making him one of the most attractive Bosmans on the market. Everton and Hull are both thought to be interested.
Sunderland have not given up hope of tying Colback down to a new deal before he can officially begin talks with other clubs from June 1.
Poyet revealed after Sunday’s final game against Swansea that he was keen to keep three or four of those facing uncertain futures - with Colback thought to be foremost among them after shining during Sunderland’s miraculous escape from the relegation trapdoor.
“We have some players who we hope will be here – we have talked to them all,” said Poyet. “Now it will be a case of everyone considering their options.
“They are bound to have options, we have options and we just see how it goes.”
If Sunderland are to stand a chance of keeping Colback, they will need to up their offer for the former Ipswich loanee, who is currently one of the lowest earners among the first-team squad.
Sunderland have paid the price for former director of football Roberto De Fanti making a derisory offer of a contract extension last summer when Colback would almost certainly have penned a new deal if a reasonable proposition had been made.
After that, Colback rejected several improved offers from the Black Cats while the club’s Premier League status was in serious jeopardy, before all contract talks were put on hold last month.