GRAHAM Kavanagh has today emerged as the clear favourite to replace John Hughes as manager of Hartlepool United.
SportMail understands there has already been contact between Pools’ hierarchy and the 39-year-old, who is currently assistant manager of League One Carlisle United.
Kavanagh, who lives at Wynyard, is out of contract at Brunton Park and is free to discuss terms with Pools.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder has been assistant to Greg Abbott since 2010 and the Cumbrians boss this week moved to deny rumours his No.2 was on his way to Victoria Park.
However, following yesterday’s news that both Hughes and right-hand man Micky Barron had been sacked, Kavanagh was quickly installed as favourite for the hotseat.
And sources in the North-West suggest that he is keen to embark on a managerial career of his own.
Should Kavanagh arrive at the Vic then it would be no surprise to see former Pools midfielder Paul Murray return as his assistant.
The 36-year-old was released by Pools in January before signing for Oldham Athletic.
He did not make a single appearance for The Latics and has long since started his desire to stay in the game as a coach.
Meanwhile, we also understand that Middlesbrough coach Colin Cooper, who was in the running to replace Neale Cooper last November, has also been sounded out about the position on Clarence Road.
Cooper, 46, is another who is hoping to make the step up into full-time management having previously taken caretaker charge of both Boro and Bradford City.
He, as well as Phil Brown and Craig Short, were on the shortlist for the vacant manager’s job last season only for Hughes to be appointed in a surprise move.
But the Scot’s tenure was to last just 29 matches and, following relegation to League Two and rumblings of discontent behind the scenes, confirmation arrived yesterday afternoon that his reign was over.
So, too, is Barron’s 17-year association with the club.
Having signed as a player in 1997 – later to be awarded a testimonial match – he went on to enjoy coaching roles within the youth, reserve and senior set-ups.
Meanwhile, former Pools players Darrell Clarke and Tommy Miller are also likely to be interested in succeeding Hughes.
Clarke will lead Salisbury City in their Conference North play-off final against Dover on Sunday but it is thought the 35-year-old would jump at the chance of a return to the Vic.
Miller was in caretaker control of Swindon Town following Paolo Di Canio’s departure earlier this season but was this week released by the Wiltshire club.
There was no-one available for comment from Pools today with regards either the sacking of Hughes and Barron or their search for a replacement.