Sunderland are understood to have joined the race for Rovers target Stewart Downing.

Rovers have confirmed their interest in the 34-year-old who is set to be a free agent when leaving boyhood club Middlesbrough.

Tony Mowbray is keen to add the experienced winger to his ranks for next season and hopes his close relationship with Downing could convince him to make the move to Ewood Park.

The former England international is unlikely to be short of interest however, with Sheffield Wednesday and Rangers already linked, while there is expected to be overseas clubs eyeing a possible move.

And it is understood that Sunderland, beaten in the League One play-off final last month, could offer Downing the possibility of staying in the north east.

He had a brief spell at the Stadium of Light in late 2003, scoring three times in seven appearances, but would need to weigh up whether to drop in to League One.

Downing is set to leave the Riverside, after a second spell, having not been offered a new deal by the club. He passed 400 appearances for Boro last season, and has played 663 career games, including 40 last season.

Middlesbrough are currently without a manager, after sacking Tony Pulis last month, and Rovers chief executive Steve Waggott admits that adds a different perspective to Downing’s future which he will consider once he returns from holiday.

Rovers are one wide option short following the departure of Craig Conway after he rejected the offer of a new contract.

And speaking of Downing, Waggott told the Lancashire Telegraph: “We have a relatively young squad and I think Tony will be looking at some experienced players.

“Obviously he has known Stewart for a while.

“There’s a lot of things happening at Middlesbrough regarding their manager, could it be Jonathan Woodgate, and if is then would Downing stay with him?

“If it’s not him, then who is it, does he want to keep him? If he leaves, where does he want to go?

“If he is going to be on the move then hopefully the relationship Tony and Mark (Venus) have with him, and him knowing them, might put us in a strong position.”