Sunderland track Blackburn star Ollson

Sunderland are tracking Blackburn Rovers left-back Martin Olsson, who is desperate to quit Ewood Park before the start of the new season.

The Swede officially handed in a transfer request yesterday after becoming frustrated with efforts to leave the club.

And his agent, Martin Dahlin, confirmed: “It is true that Martin has submitted a transfer request. Of course, he would not play in the Championship.”

Southampton, West Ham and Stoke are also rumoured to be interested in the 24-year-old, and one of the four clubs has submitted a formal £1.5m bid for the player.

Blackburn have rejected that though, and are seeking closer to £4m for a player who has three years remaining on his contract.

Olsson fits much more easily into O’Neill’s blueprint for Sunderland’s future than Aston Villa full-back Stephen Warnock, who was linked with the Wearsiders.

The Swede is young, quick and a full international, having played in all of Sweden’s games in the European Championships.

And, coming from a newly-relegated club, Sunderland would hope to get him for a relatively inexpensive fee if Blackburn eventually become more realistic in their transfer demands.

Meanwhile, Sunderland will play Swedish champions Helsingborg next weekend, with the game due to take place on Saturday, August 4.

It is the last pre-season friendly to be announced, and Martin O’Neill told the Gazette: “It’s a good fixture for us.

“I think they are a little bit further ahead of us in terms of fitness and it’s exactly the sort of test we want.”