BLACK CATS EYE JEFFERS SWOOP
By Peter O`Rourke
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Jeffers` future at Goodison Park is very much in doubt after the England Under-21 star rejected The Toffees` five-year contract offer that would have placed him among the top earners at the club.
Everton are keen to keep one of their most prized assets, but the player is at odds with the club and is expected to leave in the summer.
A number of clubs including Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Leed United and Tottenham Hotspur, who made an enquiry for the player earlier in the season, are all monitoring his situation, but Sunderland have jumped to the head of the queue.
Sunderland boss Peter Reid is a big admirer of the 20-year-old striker and is keen to strengthen his squad for next season after seeing their challenge for a place in Europe this term falter in recent weeks.
The forward line is an area Reid is determined to improve, as his side have struggled whenever first-choice pair Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips have been missing and he has been forced to use Don Hutchison as an emergency striker in some cases as Daniele Dichio is the only recognised cover up front.
Having also lost out on Slovakian forward Silzard Nemeth to North East rivals Middlesbrough, Reid is determined to land a top quality front-man to boost his side next season.
The 20-year-old is out of contract in the summer of 2002 and Everton would prefer to sell him if they cannot agree a new deal, to prevent losing him for nothing.
If Sunderland were successful in a bid for Jeffers he would join former Goodison Park team-mates John Oster, Gavin McCann and Hutchison at the Stadium of Light.
Meanwhile, Paul Gascoigne suffered a new injury blow when he was forced to limp off just 23 minutes into his comeback game against Sunderland reserves on Monday night.
The former England midfielder, who was making his first competitive appearance in over three months following a knee injury, was forced to come off with a hamstring strain and it raises question marks whether he will figure for the Merseysiders again this season.
Everton`s veteran defender Dave Watson is reportedly at the head of Tranmere`s management list to succeed John Aldridge at Prenton Park.
The 39-year-old has management experience, having had a brief spell as caretaker of Everton earlier in his distinguished playing career.
Watson has been interviewed for the post and, if he takes the job, it would end a 15-year association with the Goodison Park club.