Sunderland supporters say their club is in danger of blowing its chance of promotion before the season has even begun after postponing talks to appoint a new manager.
The Black Cats yesterday announced that they had opened talks with parties interested in buying the club from owner Ellis Short.
While that process continues, the club added, the recruitment of a new manager will not be concluded imminently.
Sunderland’s search for a new manager has almost entered its fourth week following the resignation of David Moyes, with Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes having turned down the job on Thursday.
The latest delay in finding a successor to Moyes has further frustrated many supporters, including Paul Dobson, the joint editor of fanzine A Love Supreme.
He said: “It’s just another fly in the ointment of progress. We look to be in a similar situation to last summer, when we lost most of pre-season because the manager was playing catch-up. This season we haven’t even got a squad really. We can’t really sign players at the moment because we don’t have a manager, so we’re falling behind.
“The longer this drags on, the less likely it looks that we’d be able to challenge for promotion. Fans are concerned, and are right to be concerned. The sooner this whole situation is sorted out and made clear, the better.”
The statement from the club said: “Since the end of the season, our focus has been to appoint a new manager. Recently, however, discussions have been entered into with parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring ownership of the club. With this backdrop, we have been unable to give the assurances any potential candidate would need regarding the plans a new owner could have for the manager’s position. The recruitment process, whilst still very much active, cannot therefore be concluded imminently.
“We are of course acutely aware of the need to act swiftly to appoint a manager and to ensure that this is the case, have placed a time limit on discussions regarding a potential sale.
George Forster, of Sunderland Supporters’ Association, spoke of his disappointment at the situation before the club released its statement.
He said: “We are becoming the laughing stock of football. If things aren’t sorted before the start of the new season then things will be much harder.”
Fixtures for the new Championship season will be released on Wednesday morning.