Sunderland’s search for a new manager enters a crucial third week with the Black Cats still to settle on David Moyes’ successor.
Derek McInnes remains the overwhelming favourite but Sunderland may be put off the compensation package owed to Aberdeen, the Scot still having two years to run on his contract.
The Black Cats have been considering a number of free agents such as the former Wolves boss Paul Lambert, with Nigel Pearson one of the names strongly linked with the role over the weekend.
The former Leicester and Hull City boss has been out of work since leaving Derby County last October.
His Championship experience would appeal to Sunderland but the situation is complicated by his interest in the Middlesbrough job, a role he has already told Goals on Sunday he would like to take on.
His main competitor for that post is the former Leeds United boss Garry Monk, who looks unlikely to be attracted to Wearside despite being the most popular choice with fans for the vacant position.
Monk was the favourite with the Black Cats faithful in a Sunderland Echo poll conducted immediately after Moyes’ departure, and remained so in a poll ran last week.
Monk won 47% of the vote, with Derek McInnes second on 31%.
This weekend saw fevered speculation that Monk and long-serving assistant James Beattie are on the brink of being appointed by the Teesside outfit but the club have privately insisted that a decision is yet to be made.
Their call could have a big impact Sunderland’s search, who are fast losing valuable time to restructure and strengthen their squad ahead of the new campaign.
The Irish Times revealed on Saturday that centre-half John O’Shea, currently on international duty, is waiting for assurances from any new manager before making a decision on his future.
One player who has been linked with a Stadium of Light move is Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Aston Villa.