Cats ready for Henderson fight

Reports on Friday suggested the Merseysiders have made an improved

£15million bid for the 20-year-old England midfielder. The

Black Cats were not commenting on the matter, but it is understood

they are well aware of Liverpool’s interest and remain unmoved in

their stance that the player is not for sale. Manager Steve Bruce

has informally placed a value of around £20million on

Henderson’s head, an acknowledgement of the figure it might take to

persuade his current employers to think about any offer. However,

the intention is still to place the Academy graduate at the centre

of the club’s plans for the new campaign and in the circumstances,

Liverpool’s interest in him is both unwelcome and potentially

divisive. The Reds’ pursuit of striker Kenwyne Jones, along with

that of Tottenham in January 2009, had the effect of unsettling the

player, and while he ultimately stayed at the Stadium of Light

after signing a new and improved contract, his form dipped and he

was eventually sold to Stoke. Sunderland will hope their interest

in Henderson, who is currently away on England Under-21 duty, does

not turn his head with the midfielder leading the way for a new

generation of home-grown players on Wearside. Speculation over the

midfielder’s future has been rife since his form for the Black Cats

won him a regular starting berth two seasons ago and in November

last year, his elevation to the senior England squad. Manchester

United and Manchester City have both been credited with an interest

in him in the recent past, and Bruce is realistic enough to know

that there could come a point at which an offer simply becomes too

good to refuse. That is exactly what happened with neighbours

Newcastle when Liverpool placed £35million on the table for

striker Andy Carroll and it remains to be seen whether they are

prepared to go high enough to tempt Sunderland to change their

minds. Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has also been linked with a

move for Bruce’s skipper Lee Cattermole, whose time at the Stadium

of Light has been blighted by injuries. Far from looking to sell

key players this summer, the manager has repeatedly spoken of his

intention to add to his squad, and the list of names reportedly in

his sights increased on Friday when United duo Darron Gibson and

Wes Brown were thrown into the mix amid suggestions that they could

be involved in a swap deal with Henderson. Republic of Ireland

midfielder Gibson’s international boss, Giovanni Trapattoni, has

repeatedly suggested that the player may need to move from Old

Trafford if he is to get the regular football he craves, although

he has shown little inclination to do so.