WITH the halfway stage of the January transfer window approaching, the region's three biggest clubs are stepping up their activity. Northern Echo Sport looks at what they are hoping to achieve this month, and what is likely to happen before the window swings shut
By Paul Fraser
A QUICK look down Newcastle United's squad list and it soon becomes apparent where Alan Pardew needs reinforcements during this month's transfer window.
Defensively, through midfield and even on the flanks, Pardew has options. In attack, however, there remains a shortage and the usual talk of a new striker has been constant once more.
Dutchman Luuk De Jong, who opted to join Borussia Monchengladbach last summer rather than head for Tyneside, looks increasingly likely to move to St James' Park before the end of the month even if it is initially on loan. Another long term favourite of chief scout Graham Carr is Lyon's Bafetimbi Gomis.
Newcastle have lost their last four matches, dampening the spirits built up during a run of seven wins from nine Premier League games building up to New Year which had them on the fringes of a top four spot.
It is no coincidence that during the recent slump, top-scorer Loic Remy has failed to score in each of the defeats to Arsenal, West Brom, Cardiff City and Manchester City.
The problem Pardew has encountered, though, is how to mix things up in attacking sense so he has relayed that message to director of football Joe Kinnear.
Papiss Cisse has only scored one Premier League goal since April. Shola Ameobi has not found the net in the league for more than a year. Yoan Gouffran has, at least, been chipping in, but even his goals have arrived when he has been operating as a winger rather than a centre-forward.
Qatari interest in Cisse could also leave Newcastle even shorter on striker options, but Pardew - also likely to lose versatile Jonas Gutierrez - wants to add a forward rather than lose one before February 1.
Montpellier's £12m-rated Remy Cabella is also in Newcastle's thinking. While capable of playing centrally in attack, he is more of a luxury player in the Hatem Ben Arfa mould so he is not a necessity this month.
Luuk De Jong - the Borussia Monchengladbach striker has been long admired at St James' Park and has already hinted he would be open to a move this month.
Remy Cabella - the Montpellier playmaker is one of Newcastle's top targets but a 12m valuation means he will not come cheap.
Bafetimbi Gomis - the long-standing target is still on the Newcastle radar if Lyon and the player's representatives lower their fee demands.
By Scott Wilson
ANOTHER transfer window; another Sunderland signing spree. Let us hope that the mistakes of the summer have been learned.
Whereas director of football Roberto De Fanti was given free rein to do as he liked in the close season, resulting in the whirlwind arrival of 14 new players, Gus Poyet has pledged to be much more targeted when it comes to this month's recruitment drive.
The Sunderland boss clearly has more say over signings than his predecessor, Paolo Di Canio, and the loan capture of Marcos Alonso from Fiorentina suggests the Uruguayan has a decent eye for a player.
Santiago Vergini is set to join Alonso in the Black Cats ranks this week, and the arrival of the Argentinian centre-half should complete Poyet's defensive restructuring.
With Keiren Westwood set to be out for the rest of the season, there is a need for a goalkeeping acquisition, and talks with Catania over Mariano Andujar are at an advanced stage.
At the other end of the field, the ongoing struggles of Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore have underlined the need for a new centre-forward, with Internacional's Ignacio Scocco currently topping the wanted list.
There is a strong desire to turn Ki Sung-Yueng's loan deal into a permanent transfer, while Liam Bridcutt is another player to have attracted considerable interest. With the Brighton midfielder having submitted a transfer request, there is every chance of a deal being completed this month.
There will also be outgoings, with Cabral already having joined Genoa on loan to lead an exodus of players who have failed to live up to their billing on the banks of the Wear.
Sunderland have eight senior players due to be out of contract in the summer, so it would be no surprise to see the likes of Jack Colback, Seb Larsson and Craig Gardner depart if an acceptable offer was received.
Fletcher's departure would be a more controversial one, but with the Scotsman failing to fire, Poyet is willing to listen to offers.
Santiago Vergini - a deal for the Argentinian centre-half is close to being finalised, with the 25-year-old due to travel to England in the next 48 hours.
Liam Bridcutt - the Brighton midfielder has submitted a transfer request in an attempt to force through a move to Wearside, but Sunderland will have to improve their most recent offer of 2.5m.
Maxi Lopez - the former Barcelona striker is expected to leave Catania this month, and Sunderland are one of a number of clubs to have been linked with him in the Italian press.
By Steph Clark
AITOR KARANKA has highlighted the need to trim his squad recently, so transfer activity at the Riverside could focus more on outgoings rather than incomings this month.
The Middlesbrough boss is still looking to add one or two faces after the arrival of Kenneth Omeruo on loan from Chelsea, though, but Karanka is desperate to cut his first-team squad to 23 and that could mean several departures.
The bulk of those will probably be youngsters on the fringes like Luke Williams, Adam Reach and Andy Halliday leaving on loan, but there are also a few high-profile first-team players that could move on.
Grant Leadbitter and Lukas Jutkiewicz have attracted interest from Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers respectively, while Seb Hines could also be allowed to leave after falling further down the pecking order following Omeruo's arrival.
Rhys Williams has been the subject of interest in previous windows and along with Leadbitter and Jutkiewicz, a move would generate funds for Karanka to re-invest in his squad.
Karanka has more than enough options at the back, but while Mustapha Carayol, Albert Adomah and more recently Emmanuel Ledesma have all contributed to Boro's goal tally, some attacking reinforcements could give the Teessiders that extra push in the second half of the season.
A striker is high in Karanka's thinking. Perhaps with the exception of Kei Kamara, who scored four in 14 before suffering a knee injury, Boro's strike department has not contributed enough with Jutkiewicz, Marvin Emnes and Curtis Main scoring four goals between them this term.
That isn't enough even if goals have been coming from other areas of the field and you feel buying a prolific striker could be the difference between Boro making the play-offs and not. Norwich City's Luciano Becchio, Blackburn's Ruben Rochina and Genk's Jelle Vossen are all options.
Luciano Becchio - Boro are long-term admirers of the Norwich City man, but his Premier League wages could prove a stumbling block.
Ruben Rochina - Landing the Spanish striker is an option, but it is thought he would only move to the Riverside as part of a swap deal for Lukas Jutkiewicz, who has attracted interest from Blackburn.
Jelle Vossen - Tony Mowbray tried to sign him in the summer, but it is understood Karanka would have to sell before making an offer for the £4m-rated Belgian.