Aberdeen are preparing for life without Sunderland managerial target Derek McInnes.
The Echo understands the Scottish Premiership outfit are readying themselves for the Black Cats to make a move for the 45-year-old.
But, as yet, Sunderland are yet to make an official approach for the Dons boss.
McInnes has made it be known privately that he wants to be given the chance to take the reins at the Stadium of Light, but has publicly distanced himself from the role.
In the aftermath of last weekend's Scottish Cup final loss to Celtic he made it clear he would only leave Pittodrie for the right kind of offer, given that he was burned by his experiences at cash-strapped Bristol City earlier in his career.
But behind the scenes the Dons are understood to be preparing for McInnes' exit, with the likes of Jack Ross, who has impressed at St Mirren, a contender to step in should the former Rangers and West Brom midfielder head to Wearside.
McInnes faces a massive rebuild job in the North East of Scotland.
Key men Niall McGinn, who could be off to Bolton Wanderers, MK Dons-bound Peter Pawlett, Ash Taylor and former Sunderland target Johnny Hayes, who has been subject to interest from Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys, are all set to depart this summer.
Skipper Ryan Jack, who McInnes stripped of the captaincy in the run up to last weekend's final, has already exited on a free transfer to boyhood heroes Rangers.
The scale of the task at hand north of the border means he is not fazed by a potential summer of upheaval in the North East.
The feeling is that although Sunderland is a tough job, with strong financial constraints, the time could be right for McInnes, linked constantly with a return to Ibrox, to leave.
One massive stumbling block could well be cash.
While the purse strings will be tight for any new manager at SoL, a compensation package totalling more than £1million, due to McInnes and trusted assistant Tony Docherty having two years left on their current Dons deal, could put a spanner in the works for the Black Cats.
While that may prove to be a stumbling block, the Echo has learned that McInnes is at the very top of chief executive Martin Bain's wishlist.
Walter Smith, a manager who helped shape McInnes' career, signing him as a kid from Morton at Rangers, has championed his protege's cause privately.
Smith, with his wife, were Bain's guests in the Stamford Bridge boardroom on the final day of Sunderland's ill-fated Premier League campaign.
Bain is understood to be meeting with agents of candidates over the coming days.
Paul Lambert, Garry Monk, Simon Grayson, Nigel Clough, Paul Heckingbottom and Ryan Giggs have also been linked with the post.