By Rob Stewart
Sunderland defender Titus Bramble is expected to lead the exodus of players who are deemed surplus to requirements by Black Cats manager Martin O’Neill at the Stadium of Light this summer.
Goal.com can reveal that O’Neill has warned his players that there will be wholesale changes when the summer transfer window opens next month, and that Bramble is expected to move on along with midfielder Craig Gardner and Egyptian winger Ahmed Elmohamady.
Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon has already been told his contract will not be renewed and Connor Wickham is set to follow the former Ipswich Town, Newcastle and Wigan centre-back Bramble out of the exit door on loan.
Danish international striker Nicklas Bendtner has already returned to Arsenal following a season on loan at Sunderland, and O’Neill has been tipped to make a move for Norwich City centre-forward Grant Holt, who has had a transfer request rejected by the Carrow Road board of directors.
“O’Neill has told them that a lot of them won’t be around when the new season starts, which shows that he means business,” a Wearside source told Goal UK.
“Titus will be off because he’s just not Martin O’Neill’s sort of player. He just doesn’t rate him that highly and he won’t stand in his way if there is a move on the cards.
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“A few others will be on their way as well. Craig Gardner and David Vaughan will probably go and Elmohamady will too, and Wickham will probably be loaned out in the hope that he can regain a bit of confidence because they don’t want to give up on him.”
The 30-year-old Bramble – who has 10 England Under-21 caps to his credit - was brought to Sunderland by former Wigan boss Steve Bruce in the summer of 2010 when he signed a three-year contract. But tellingly, he has played just once since the turn of the year - in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester United.
Wickham joined Sunderland on a four-year deal from Ipswich last summer in an £8 million move, but the 19-year-old has looked out of his depth and a return to Portman Road for a season seems likely as he attempts to reinvigorate a career that has stalled on Wearside.
The England Under-21 player has figured just 15 times for Sunderland and has scored a solitary goal since he headed to Wearside from Suffolk last year.
Sunderland owner Ellis Short is expected to back O’Neill to the hilt in the transfer market this summer after the squad’s weaknesses were exposed in the latter stages of the season. A decline in form saw the club slip to 13th in the Premier League table following a run of just two wins in 15 outings.