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By ESPN Staff

Black Cats reassure fans over sales

Sunderland chief executive Steve Walton has insisted players will not have to be sold to balance the books.

The Black Cats have taken a more measured approach to transfer dealing under owner Ellis Short and manager Steve Bruce has had to justify all spending while at the same time managing the size of his squad.

However, Walton is adamant that the club will not have to offload players to fund a summer recruitment drive.

He told supporters at a talk-in in South Shields on Monday night: "Players will absolutely not have to be sold to balance the books.

"Any sales will be dictated by what is right for the manager and balancing the dressing room.

"However, of course we can't legislate for transfers which come from left field, such as those involving Darren Bent and Lorik Cana.''

Bent stunned Sunderland by handing an a transfer request in January, and subsequently left the club in a £24 million switch to Aston Villa.

Bruce has already drawn up plans to replace the England international during the close-season having decided not to spend in haste during the final days of the winter window.

Former skipper Cana left for Galatasaray last summer just a year after arriving on Wearside in a £5 million switch from Marseille.

One player seemingly staying at Sunderland is midfielder Jordan Henderson, who is intent on continuing his career on Wearside despite continuing speculation to the contrary.

The 20-year-old's blossoming reputation, fuelled by a first senior England cap, has alerted potential suitors to his talent with Manchester United rumoured to be among those monitoring his situation.

However, amid speculation that a deal has already been done - something Bruce has dismissed - Henderson has expressed his desire to remain with his home-town club.

He told the Journal: "I do feel I have improved this season. I'm a better player than I was 12 months ago.

"It has been another great season for me. I have had some ups and downs along the way, but it's all part of my development. I have coped okay with the second season thing.

"I'm improving every day, that is what I'm aiming to do. I'm enjoying myself at Sunderland, I'm not looking to leave.

"I'm playing every week in the Premier League and that's all I have ever dreamed of doing.

"I'm young and I'm playing for Sunderland. It's something I love doing. I just want to keep doing that, keep improving, keep getting better as a player.''

Henderson was catapulted into the first-team picture after impressing Bruce in training during the first few weeks of the then new boss' time on Wearside.

He has been virtually ever-present since forcing his way into the starting line-up, and while his manager admits there have been times when he might have been rested for his own sake had injuries not taken their toll on the squad, he remains a key man.

Meanwhile, chairman Niall Quinn has confirmed that the Black Cats have opened talks with Frenchman Steed Malbranque over a new contract.

The popular 31-year-old's existing deal is due to expire at the end of next season.

Speaking at a talk-in with fans in South Shields, Quinn said: "We have opened negotiations over a new contract with Steed. He is a great asset to the club.''

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