Sunderland are deep in the relegation mire, and after the sacking of Paolo di Canio, they have turned to Gus Poyet to keep them afloat.
As a result, the Uruguayan will be looking for new signings in January as he looks to mould his own team at the Stadium of Light, and the media are already beginning to link the former Chelsea and Spurs midfielder with moves for some of his former players at Brighton - here are three that could be turning out in the red and white stripes of Sunderland in the New Year.
Despite spending £8.5m on Jozy Altidore in the summer, Sunderland are still searching for goals having scored just five this season – only Stoke have scored less in the Premier League. This hunt for a striker could lead them to Brighton's Leonardo Ulloa. The Argentine has been a sensation at The Amex, scoring 18 goals in all competitions since his January move from Spanish side Almeria. A typical targetman with height, strength and aerial ability, Ulloa has shown he can score goals in the Championship – is he ready for the step up? He has since come out to quash speculation, but by time January rolls around and interest becomes concrete he may not feel the same way.
Bridcutt, 24, was formerly on the books at Chelsea before a move to Brighton in 2010. Since then, the combative defensive midfielder has made 142 appearances for the Seagulls in all competitions, clinching successive Player of the Awards in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Bridcutt may be small, but he wins the ball back well and plays simple passes to keep possession for his team. Sunderland have a similar player in Lee Cattermole, but Bridcutt is a technically better player and his disciplinary record is a lot cleaner.
Sunderland let Stephane Sessegnon leave, but did bring in Emanuele Giaccherini and Charis Mavrias in the summer. Adam Johnson hasn't quite lived up to his billing since his move from Manchester City, which could lead Poyet to add competition on the flanks. Buckley, 23, signed for Poyet's Brighton for £1m in 2011, and has gone on to score almost 20 goals from the wing during his spell at The Amex. Pacey and with good dribbling ability, Buckley poses a threat when running at defences – but he's wildly inconsistent and frustrating at times, which makes you wonder whether he can cut it at a higher level.
Given the way that Poyet left Brighton in the summer, there may be a reluctance from the Seagulls to do a deal anyway. Brighton fans are talking in excess of £10m for Bridcutt and Ulloa, after Crystal Palace had £6.25m turned down for the pair, which is a lot of money for players totally unproven in the Premier League - but having worked with them before, maybe Poyet believes he can harness their abilities in any division.
image: © Daniel Coomber