Ex-Newcastle and Celtic defender ‘interested’ in Sunderland job as hunt continues

The Sunderland squad today returned to training for the first time since Chris Coleman’s sacking, with first team coach Robbie Stockdale taking charge with the new manager hunt ongoing.

Mick McCarthy, in the region on personal business yesterday, remains the early favourite and it is understood he feels he has unfinished business on Wearside.

Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy

McCarthy is out of work after leaving Ipswich last month and while he would be open to a return, there has not been any contact from the club.

Michael Appleton, currently assistant to Claude Puel at Leicester City, is another strong early contender while Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder have also been heavily linked. Wilder and Appleton are both known to Stewart Donald, leading the consortium taking over from Ellis Short, through his Oxford connections, though there has not been any contact from the club.

The Echo also understands that former Newcastle United and Celtic defender Gary Caldwell is ‘interested’ in the challenge at Sunderland. Caldwell led Wigan Athletic to the League One title in 2015-16.

Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer has also been touted as a possible candidate to replace Coleman, the Welshman sacked on Sunday with two years left on his deal.

Coleman was willing to take a pay cut and lead the promotion charge from League One but the new owners wanted to bring in their own man, leaving Coleman devastated to see his time on Wearside end early.

The takeover is still to be ratified by the EFL, a process that can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks and a managerial appointment is not likely to be announced until then.

Relegated Sunderland only have one Championship game left, with champions Wolverhampton Wanderers the visitors on Sunday lunchtime.

Stockdale will take charge of training this week and the game against Wolves, his third stint as caretaker boss.

Meanwhile, Simon Grayson believes his former club can quickly get back into the Championship - but warned every League One game will be like an FA Cup tie for their opponents.

Sunderland will start the new campaign in the third tier with a new owner and a new manager after Coleman was sacked shortly before confirmation Short had sold Sunderland to an international consortium headed by Donald.

When asked if Sunderland will prove a good purchase, Grayson said: “It’s going to be an FA Cup final for all the teams playing against them next season, and ultimately it’s tough to do [get promotion from League One].

“What they’ve got to do now is start afresh.

“They’ve got a new owner coming in and will have a new manager, and if they can start the season well then they can get back very quickly.”