Sunderland face a fight to land managerial target Michael O'Neill after Scotland made an official approach for the Northern Ireland boss.
O'Neill is a man in demand after leading unfancied Irish to Euro 2016 and the brink of the World Cup.
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The Echo exclusively revealed last night that Sunderland have placed O'Neill on their shortlist to replace Simon Grayson, and held tentative talks over his availability yesterday.
The Black Cats have yet to make an official approach for the 48-year-old, but Scotland - without a manager since Gordon Strachan's departure - have earmarked O'Neill for their vacant role.
And reports today claim the Scottish FA have asked their Irish counterparts for permission to speak to the former Newcastle United forward.
It means Sunderland will have to make a decision whether to follow up their interest in O'Neill, or pursue other contenders such as Paul Heckingbottom and Ally McCoist.
Chief executive Martin Bain is determined not to rush into an appointment, despite the Black Cats sitting bottom of the Championship.