Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill, Barnsley’s Paul Heckingbottom and former Rangers manager Ally McCoist are on Sunderland’s shortlist to replace the sacked Simon Grayson.
Chief executive Martin Bain is hoping to speak to candidates before the weekend and O’Neill has now emerged as one of the frontrunners after Northern Ireland lost their World Cup play-off against Switzerland this week.
Meanwhile, Sportsmail understands both Heckingbottom and McCoist are interested in the vacancy.
Sunderland are bottom of the Championship and were beaten 3-0 by Heckingbottom’s Barnsley in August.
The 40-year-old began his playing career on Wearside after being released from Manchester United’s youth ranks but did not make a senior appearance.
Barnsley is Heckingbottom’s first managerial post and he landed the job on a permanent basis in the summer of 2016 after leading the team to promotion from League One and victory in the Football League Trophy while still caretaker.
Bain is also keen on McCoist, who he believes could inject energy and personality into the club.
Sportsmail understand Sunderland are considering Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom as well