SUNDERLAND last night hit back at West Ham in the war of words over an alleged illegal approach for striker Demba Ba.
The Black Cats responded after the Hammers lodged an official complaint with the Premier League about their transfer conduct.
A spokesman said: “Sunderland AFC is fully aware of the Premier League regulations pertaining to player recruitment. If we are interested in any player currently under contract with another club, we will speak directly to that club, in line with the regulations.”
Ba has been a smash hit at Upton Park since arriving in January but is expected to be sold following their relegation to the Championship.
League chiefs are investigating whether Sunderland have broken rules which state that clubs cannot open talks with players from another team without prior written consent from the selling side.
“We have received a letter from West Ham United,” said a league spokesman. “We will look into their complaint to see if there is a case to answer.”
It is the latest controversy to embroil Ba, after the 26-year-old Senegal international was dragged into a row with fans at the club’s end-of-season dinner last week.
The Hammers’ search for a manager to replace the sacked Avram Grant continues, but co-owner David Gold has denied reports of talks with Cardiff’s Dave Jones.
Another possible contender, Paul Lambert, yesterday effectively ruled himself out by signing a new contract with Norwich.
Former Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce and ex-Newcastle boss Chris Hughton are among the favourites for the West Ham vacancy.