Sunderland manager latest: Black Cats assessing potential candidates with Aitor Karanka 'open to talks'

Former Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka.
Former Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka.
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Sunderland continue to assess potential managerial candidates to replace Simon Grayson.

Reports suggested the club's hierarchy have approached free agent Aitor Karanka over the possibility of taking charge but the Echo understands that is not the case.

Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain is leading the search for the new manager with the club currently at the stage of assessing potential candidates. No approaches have yet been made.

Former Middlesbrough manager Karanka has been high in the odds ever since Grayson departed on Tuesday night and the Echo understands he would listen to what Sunderland had to say if approached.

Karanka, out of work since his Boro departure in March, still lives in the North East but is currently away in Spain.

It is understood he would want assurances over finances and what direction the club is heading in if Sunderland were to make an approach.

The Black Cats are expected to plumb for an experienced manager given the current plight they find themselves in, with Sunderland third bottom of the Championship after 15 games.

That approach would rule out current bookies favourite John O'Shea with former Sunderland striker Ally McCoist second favourite with South Shields-born Phil Brown also among the bookies favourites having declared it would be a dream to land the SAFC job.

Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom and Shrewsbury boss Paul Hurst have also been linked.

Sunderland are searching for their ninth manager in six years.

Grayson was relieved of his duties at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night, within minutes of the final whistle following the 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers.

Joint caretakers Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay will lead the side at the Riverside on Sunday lunchtime for the Tees-Wear derby.