ROBERTO Di Matteo, Steve McClaren and Mark Hughes have emerged as the early contenders to replace Martin O’Neill as Sunderland boss.
O’Neill was sacked by owener Ellis Short after seeing his side fail to win a game in their last eight attempts.
The new manager will have just seven fixtures left to save Sunderland from relegation. Here, we take a look at the early runners and riders:
ROBERTO DI MATTEO
Di Matteo has been out of work since leaving Chelsea in November, just six months after guiding them to Champions League success. He has not managed in a relegation fight, though, having being dispensed with by West Brom in 2011 when they looked like getting sucked into trouble. Whether he would be prepared to go from the Champions League to battling relegation to the Championship is also open to question.
The former striker’s reputation has been damaged by his unsuccessful 10-month stint in charge of QPR, overseeing their worst start to a Premier League season. He kept Rangers up last season, though, as well as excelling at Blackburn and impressing at Fulham.
McClaren, whose reputation in England took a knock with his disastrous time in charge of the national team, is available again after leaving FC Twente in Holland last month. He has not managed in the Premier League since 2006, but did well in his time at other club in the north-east - Middlesbrough.
The 46-year-old was regarded as one of the brightest up-and-coming British managers when he took Burnley into the Premier League and then started well at Bolton. Things did not work out at Wanderers, though, and he left the club following a poor start to this season. A new challenge could reignite his career.
PAOLO DI CANIO
The controversial Italian proved his potential in management at Swindon, winning the npower League Two title and leaving them well placed in League One before resigning in February after growing tired at the boardroom goings-on at the County Ground. He is on the lookout for a new job, but the Black Cats would be taking a risk by putting their Premier League survival in the hands of a boss with no experience in the top two divisions.