West Ham could have another Jarrod Bowen on their hands with inspired £20m summer raid

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The Hammers are being linked with a move for an exciting new winger

Think of it like the 24 x Mike Bassett crossover reboot that nobody asked for. Mike Dodds has been given 13 matches to guide Sunderland into the Championship play-off places, and then beyond that, on to promotion. If he fails, not only will the Black Cats be stuck in the second tier for another season, but they will almost certainly lose star man Jack Clarke in the summer transfer window too. The stakes could hardly be higher.

On Monday, Sunderland parted company with manager Michael Beale after just 63 days at the helm, handing former caretaker Dodds his old job on an interim basis until the end of the campaign in the process. It was a departure that few were sad about. In direct contrast, however, the looming exit of Clarke has fingernails all over Wearside chewed down to the bone.

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It is no secret that the winger is in-demand, nor is it any great shock. So far this season, he has contributed 15 goals and four assists from the left flank, and leads the Championship by some way in terms of successful progressive carries. Without Clarke, it is hard to know exactly how much worse off Sunderland would be, but the common consensus is that the impact would be significant.

And as frightening as it might be for Mackems everywhere, we may not have to wait so long to find out for definite. According to the player's agent, former Leeds United defender Ian Harte, the prospect of a summer exit is not only real, but seemingly desired too.

Speaking on the Tippy Tappy Football Podcast, he said: 'There was a couple of bids that come in from Lazio. Sunderland didn't feel like wanted to sell the player in the January window. The player has just obviously got to focus on what he's doing at the moment, which is fantastically well, scoring goals, getting assists. But hopefully this summer we'll probably see Jack moving. Where it may be, we don't know just yet, but he's in good place.

'I think to players, obviously, being an ex player like myself, you just got to go out and focus on what you're getting paid to do, go out and perform for the team, which Jack has done. He's got 14 goals [now 15 following his strike against Birmingham City at the weekend] this season, four assists. It's flattering when big Italian teams are coming in and looking at a player like Jack, but the bread and butter is you've got to go out and do it week and week out at Sunderland and hopefully he’ll continue to do that.'

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And these comments will be music to the ears of West Ham, who - according to Football Insider - are one of several clubs keeping tabs on Clarke at the present moment in time. The Hammers are named alongside the likes of Crystal Palace and Southampton, with suggestions that a bid of around £20 million could be enough to tempt Sunderland into a sale. At that price, it would almost be rude not to make a move.

West Ham have had a decent amount of joy in recent years when it comes to recruiting from the Championship. You need only look as far as Jarrod Bowen's success story to realise the truth in that. And to a certain extent, Clarke is not a dissimilar prospect to the Irons talisman.

He too is an attacking talent who has taken the Football League by storm, he too is a player evidently destined for the Premier League who is in possession of a near-ceaseless potential. Clarke's career prior to his stint with Sunderland was characterised by false starts. There was the virus that left him hospitalised during his time with boyhood club Leeds, the period of inactivity which rendered him surplus to requirements at Tottenham Hotspur, the underwhelming loan spells with Stoke City and QPR.

But now, however, he has properly found his rhythm, and as he continues to go from strength to strength, there can be no denying that he is more than ready for another shot at the top flight. West Ham would do well to be the ones who afford him that opportunity.

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