Sunderland are braced for a formal approach from Southampton for Jack Clarke this summer following the Saints’ success in Sunday’s Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Southampton’s return to the Premier League, courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Leeds United, has also provided Sunderland with a cash boost thanks to a clause in the deal that took Ross Stewart to St Mary’s last year. However, it has also significantly increased the likelihood of Southampton making a move for Clarke in the next few weeks, with the club known to be long-term admirers of the Sunderland winger.

In the wake of winning promotion, Southampton’s owners are determined to strengthen their current squad in a number of key areas. The wide-attacking positions are understood to be a priority, and while Ryan Fraser’s loan deal from Newcastle United should become a permanent transfer, Clarke has also been identified as a key target for Russell Martin's side.

Southampton were heavily linked with the 23-year-old in the spring, but their interest was always going to be contingent on them winning promotion back to the top-flight.

Now that that has happened, a formal approach is anticipated which could spark further interest in Clarke, who has two more years of his current contract at the Stadium of Light to run.

We Are Sunderland: Jack Clarke, Sunderland's player of the season, is the subject of interest from SouthamptonJack Clarke, Sunderland's player of the season, is the subject of interest from Southampton (Image: Ian Horrocks)




While there has been sporadic talk of a new deal on Wearside for the York-born winger, who scooped the club's player of the year award last month, there has been no progress in contract discussions and an agreement this summer is regarded as unlikely. As a result, the club may decide to cash in if the ongoing interest in Clarke turns into a series of offers once the transfer window reopens next month.

As well as Southampton, West Ham United and Crystal Palace are also known to have a long-standing interest in Clarke, who excelled for much of last season, eventually ending the campaign with 15 Championship goals despite Sunderland’s struggles.

Lazio could also decide to rekindle the interest that saw them have two bids for Clarke rejected in the latter stages of the January transfer window. The Italian club’s final bid is understood to have involved a package worth around £15million, but it was rejected by Sunderland officials. However, they could return to the table this summer having secured European qualification by finishing seventh in Serie A last term.

Sunderland’s coffers have been swelled by Southampton’s promotion, with the deal that saw Stewart move to the south coast last summer having contained a clause relating to possible promotion from the Championship.

We Are Sunderland: Southampton's promotion to the Premier League has triggered a clause in Ross Stewart's transfer from Sunderland last summerSouthampton's promotion to the Premier League has triggered a clause in Ross Stewart's transfer from Sunderland last summer (Image: PA)

Southampton paid an up-front fee of around £8m to sign Stewart on transfer deadline day in September, with around £4m of potential add-ons also agreed. A significant chunk of that £4m was dependent on the Saints winning promotion, and Sunderland will now be due that payment thanks to Adam Armstrong’s winner at Wembley last weekend.

Stewart was an unused substitute in Sunday’s final, having missed the vast majority of the season through injury. The Scotland international made his first appearance for more than five months when he came off the bench in the latter stages of Southampton’s win over Leeds on the final day of the regular Championship season, and will hope to get more opportunities in the top-flight next term.