Sunderland stepped up their preparations for the 2021/22 League One campaign last Saturday by securing a 2-0 victory over Hearts in their latest pre-season friendly.
Aiden McGeady proved to be the difference in this particular clash as he netted a brace at Tynecastle.
Having recently signed a new one-year deal with Sunderland, the winger will be determined to replicate the performance levels that he produced last season next month when his side start their quest for promotion.
Although he was unable to guide the Black Cats to promotion in May, McGeady still managed to illustrate that he is more than capable of thriving at this level by providing 20 direct goal contributions in 31 league appearances.
By building a squad around the winger this summer, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Sunderland emerge as legitimate contenders for a top-two finish in League One.
Whereas Johnson has been able to draft in Corry Evans and Alex Pritchard this summer, he has yet to strengthen his options at right-back.
Although Luke O'Nien is more than capable of operating in this particular role, he was used predominantly as a centre-back by Sunderland last season.
Considering that the Black Cats could be in the market for a new full-back who possesses a wealth of experience at this level, it is hardly surprising that Johnson has recently been linked with a move for Joe Rafferty.
A recent report from The Sun journalist Alan Nixon suggested that Sunderland were interested in signing the 27-year-old on a temporary basis.
Certainly no stranger to life in the third-tier, Rafferty has made 162 appearances in this division during his career and thus knows exactly what it takes to deliver the goods at this level.
In a fresh update concerning the defender's future, Preston's transfer stance has now been revealed.
As a result of the full-back's contract situation, Preston are not interested in sanctioning a loan move to another club.
GIVEMESPORT's Joshua Cole says...
This is unquestionably a setback for Sunderland as they would have been hoping to add Rafferty to their squad ahead of the upcoming campaign.
However, with a loan move seemingly no longer an option, Johnson may need to negotiate a fee with Preston in order to complete a deal.
Whilst Rafferty's lack of consistency in the Championship last season resulted in him recording an underwhelming WhoScored match rating of 6.46, he could end up thriving in a lower division for Sunderland.
However, if Preston are unwilling to negotiate a reasonable fee to Rafferty, Johnson will need to switch his attention to alternative full-back targets in the coming weeks.
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