Celtic face competition from Hull and Aston Villa for striker

Steven Fletcher
Steven Fletcher
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Steven Fletcher’s long-time suitors are lining up for the striker after Sunderland confirmed his Stadium of Light exit.

As expected, Fletcher was one of four first-teamers formally released by the club last week, with his Sunderland contract reaching a conclusion at the end of this month.

Fletcher’s Sunderland career effectively ended in January when he joined Marseille on loan, but there appears little prospect of the French side signing him permanently after netting just one Ligue 1 goal in nine starts.

But reports yesterday indicated that Aston Villa, Celtic and Hull are all interested in signing the Scottish international on a free transfer, with the latter two both coming close to landing him in previous years.

Celtic were interested in signing Fletcher in his formative years at Hibernian and again made an approach last summer when the 29-year-old’s Sunderland future was uncertain.

The SPL champions were unable to match Fletcher’s wages 12 months ago, but with the ex-Wolves man now unattached and new manager Brendan Rodgers at Parkhead, he may be willing to take a pay-cut to return north of the border.

Newly-promoted Hull would be able to offer Fletcher more money and boss Steve Bruce wanted to sign Fletcher 18 months ago.

The Tigers saw a concrete bid rejected by Sunderland in January 2015, when both teams were involved in the relegation battle.

Meanwhile, Sunderland have been linked with yet another player from France, with reports across the Channel crediting the Black Cats with an interest in out-of-contract Rennes left-back Cheikh M’Bengue.

The 27-year-old – who has been linked with Newcastle United in the past – has rejected the offer of a new contract at Rennes, with reported interest from Germany and Turkey.

However, with Patrick van Aanholt committing his future to Sunderland with a new contract last week, a new right-back is far more of a priority for the Black Cats this summer than another left-back.

Sunderland also have academy product Tommy Robson coming through the ranks after the 20-year-old made his debut on the final day of the season against Watford.