Managerless Sunderland have been thrown into further chaos with the departure of joint caretaker boss Billy McKinlay.
The Scot has linked up with former Black Cats boss David Moyes at West Ham.
McKinlay, who was handed the first-team reins alongside Robbie Stockdale after Simon Grayson’s departure, joins Moyes’ backroom staff at the London Stadium.
McKinlay had joined Sunderland under Moyes as his chief scout, but was promoted to help with the first team under Simon Grayson, then handed the caretaker role when he was sacked.
McKinlay also served as Moyes’ assistant coach during his spell at Real Sociedad. The 48-year-old’s departure is another blow to Sunderland, who are still without a manager almost two weeks after Grayson was sacked.
It means Stockdale will take training this week in preparation for the visit of Millwall on Saturday, while Martin Bain continues his hunt for a new manager.
A club statement said: “Sunderland AFC can confirm that Billy McKinlay has taken up a coaching role with West Ham United.
“The club would like to thank Billy for his efforts during his time on Wearside. Robbie Stockdale will continue as the club’s caretaker manager when the squad returns to training on Monday.
“A further announcement will be made in due course.”
Meanwhile, academy chief Jimmy Sinclair is assisting Bain in the hunt for a new manager.
Bain has drafted in the help of Sinclair as he works his way through a shortlist of candidates to replace Grayson.
Aitor Karanka and Paul Heckingbottom have been strongly linked with the vacancy and, while there has been no official approach for the pair, they remain the bookies’ favourites.
Sinclair, who was brought in as academy director in February, has been assisting Bain as the chief executive prepares to make the most important decision of his 16 months at the club.
The pair go back more than a decade together, after Bain hired 59-year-old Sinclair at Rangers in a similar academy role.
The new manager won’t be former Juventus hardman Paolo Montero.
Montero, who has been head coach at Argentinian side Rosario Central, emerged as a left-field candidate last week. However, the Echo understands that he is not on Sunderland’s shortlist.