Sunderland chief Martin Bain is closing in on a new manager – and could unveil the new boss in the next 72 hours.
The Black Cats have been without a manager since David Moyes quit more than three weeks ago.
Chief executive Bain has followed a lengthy, but thorough, process of seeking out the right candidate, aware that the next appointment is crucial to Sunderland’s long-term future.
And the Echo understands that the club has made positive progress over the last few days as they look to finalise a deal for Moyes’ successor.
Reports in Scotland claim that Bain will approach Aberdeen about speaking to Derek McInnes, who has long been the leading contender for the job.
The 45-year-old isn’t the only manager on Sunderland’s shortlist, however, though he remains as short-priced as 6/4 with some bookmakers.
McInnes has been on holiday in Florida since Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup Final defeat against Celtic, but flies back into the country this week.
He has been highly-recommended by former Rangers boss Walter Smith, who Bain worked with at Ibrox for four years and who the Sunderland chief executive has consulted with over the role.
McInnes has transformed Aberdeen into the second-best club in Scotland, only behind giants Celtic, and has garnered a reputation as a fine man-manager and motivator as he led them to three successive SPL runners-up places.
One potential stumbling block to any deal would be compensation, with the Dons believed to want £1million for the Scot, while McInnes has also privately expressed concerns over the transfer budget available to him given Sunderland’s financial constraints following relegation from the Premier League.
However, it remains a huge career step for the former Scotland international, who is keen to rebuild his reputation in England after mixed success at Bristol City.
McInnes is not the only contender, however, with Kevin Phillips still strongly linked with the job, although Sunderland still favour an experienced campaigner.
Simon Grayson has been considered, but sources close to the Ripon-born boss claim he is happy at Preston North End where he is midway through a long-term project.
Paul Lambert is another name that has been mentioned, and the Echo understands he is keen to get straight back into work after his exit from Wolves last week.
Garry Monk held provisional talks with Bain prior to opting to become Middlesbrough’s new manager, while the man he beat to the Boro post, Nigel Pearson, is also being considered by Sunderland.
Bain has insisted he will take his time to get the right man in place despite Sunderland’s players reporting back on June 29 for fitness tests.
He said: “Pre-season is an important period at any football club so naturally we are keen to conclude things as quickly as possible, whilst being mindful of the need to make the right appointment.”