Sunderland have held initial talks with Garry Monk over the vacant managerial position, but face fierce competition from Championship rivals Middlesbrough to land him.
Monk is in the running alongside Nigel Pearson for the post at the Riverside, with chairman Steve Gibson thought to have interviewed both.
Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain has himself begun the process of speaking to candidates for the role and ex-Swansea manager Monk is one of them, having significantly bolstered his reputation in the game after a successful year at Leeds United.
Monk remains the firm fans favourite for the job, with 88% of Echo readers polled yesterday backing him to take over.
His appointment would represent a significant coup for Sunderland as they seek to bounce back to the Premier League, but Middlesbrough’s interest remains a significant challenge.
With significant investment expected from Gibson over the summer and far greater certainty over the ownership of the club, the Teesside outfit could present an attractive proposition, particularly given that there are severe doubts over the size of the budget any new Sunderland manager would have at their disposal.
Sunderland will be hoping that the potential of the club can attract Monk, should Gibson opt for him over Nigel Pearson.
Ex-Boro captain Pearson’s Championship experience could also appeal to Sunderland as the search continues for David Moyes’ replacement.
Preston boss Simon Grayson and Aberdeen chief Derek McInnes remain firmly in the frame.