Steve Bruce is keen to be reunited with Jack Colback this summer, as Aston Villa lead the race to sign the Newcastle United midfielder.
The Gazette has learned that there has been contact between the two sides, with talks initiated before the Magpies returned to pre-season training in July.
Talks have been on and off since then but Villa are now primed to ramp up their bid to land the former England youth international after a difficult start to life in the Championship.
Colback is heading for the St James's Park exit door having been told he is not part of Rafa Benitez's first-team plans.
The player was called into Benitez's office at the club's Benton training base last week and told that he would be allowed to leave. It has also been reported that he was involved in a training ground row with the club's staff.
And, as things stand, Villa are the club who head the race to sign Colback, despite interest from a host of other Championship sides.
Bruce is a massive admirer of Colback's talents, having worked with him during his time at the Stadium of Light.
In fact, it was Bruce who handed Colback his Premier League debut in May 2010.
And with Colback on a Premier League wage, reportedly between £40,000 to £50,000 per week at United, there are few clubs in the second tier who can get close to that.
Although, Villa, having nabbed the likes of former England and Chelsea skipper John Terry, do possess that kind of financial muscle.
The Magpies are keen to offload a number of fringe players from their ranks, in order for Benitez to further add to his side.
Colback heads that list, alongside the likes of Tim Krul, Achraf Lazaar, Massadio Haidara, Grant Hanley, Emmanuel Riviere and Henri Saivet.
As reported Colback is set to miss out on a place in United's 25-man Premier League squad list.
Meanwhile, reports in Italy suggest that Benitez is weighing up a loan move for former Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic.
The 27-year-old is currently on the books at Inter Milan.