Sunderland dealt huge blow with Alex Neil set for Stoke City switch

Sunderland have confirmed Alex Neil is in talks with Stoke City over their vacant manager’s job.

Sunderland say they will battle to keep him, however, it seems increasingly likely that Neil’s time on Wearside is up and he will move to Championship rivals Stoke City.

It would prove a devastating blow for Sunderland, especially with just under a week still to go in the transfer window. That closes September 1.

Neil has been given permission to speak to the Potters about the vacant position and is the clear favourite with bookmakers to take charge at the bet365 Stadium.

Sunderland head coach Alex Neil. Picture by FRANK REID.

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He took training at the Academy of Light on Friday as normal and is understood to have picked the team for the visit of Norwich City on Saturday lunchtime.

Neil then departed shortly before a rearranged pre-match press conference was planned for 2pm, with the club issuing a statement.

Neil’s usual Friday press conference was pushed back to 2pm when it was originally scheduled for 9am at the Academy of Light.

Reporters were told that Neil was held up in a meeting before the squad’s training session that morning.

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Sunderland’s sporting director Kristjaan Speakman.

The press conference was later cancelled.

A club statement on Friday afternoon read: “Sunderland AFC can confirm that Alex Neil has entered into discussions with Stoke City regarding their current managerial vacancy.

“Following a formal approach by SCFC, the Club is contractually obliged to permit the Head Coach to start a dialogue with the Potters.

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“The Club is committed to retaining Alex’s services as Head Coach and will be making no further comment at this moment in time.”

However, it seems Sunderland will now have to launch another new manager search.

Neil - who led Sunderland to the Championship with a play-off final win over Wycombe Wanderers in May - signed a 12-month rolling contract when he took charge at Sunderland in February, and the issue has come under the spotlight with fans concerned he could be about to depart.

Neil was a favourite among the Sunderland fans and players alike but it seems his short spell on Wearside is now up.