Sunderland are battling Hull City for the signature of free agent Kyle Dempsey after the midfielder turned down a contract extension at League One rivals Fleetwood Town, according to the Mail.
Considering that former Magpie Joey Barton seems incapable of resisting a dig at his old north east neighbours, it’s fair to say the Black Cats faithful would relish the chance to get one over on the soundbite-spitting Scouser.
It is no secret that Barton was a big fan of the dynamic Dempsey, even if he did agree to send the 24-year-old out on loan to Peterborough in January.
“The player this year could be the best player in the division,” the Cod Army coach said when discussing the transformation Dempsey had made under his stewardship at Highbury.
You can imagine, then, that Barton was not exactly thrilled to learn that a lower-league midfield maestro had turned down the chance to extend his stay at Fleetwood.
The former Huddersfield and Carlisle youngster is now a free agent, although he will not be on the breadline for long.
Recently-relegated Hull have joined Sunderland in expressing an interest.
And Dempsey, while hardly a prolific goal-scorer, could be the probing passer capable of injecting some creativity into the heart of a less-than-inventive Sunderland midfield full of ‘steady eddies’ but lacking real thrust and unpredictability.