Sunderland have been quick to reject the speculation surrounding their manager Peter Reid. The former Everton midfielder, who celebrated two years in charge at Roker Park yesterday, was quickly installed as the bookies' favourite when Royle quit on Thursday, but he has so far refused to become involved: "I am the manager of Sunderland and have no further comment to make."
The Sunderland chief executive, John Fickling, was more forthcoming and is confident Reid will honour the remaining two years of his contract. "Because it is Everton, the speculation around Peter Reid is sure to be intense," he said. "However, he is under contract with Sunderland until June 1999 and we are confident that contract will be honoured.
"He has a job to do with Sunderland and has committed himself to the club on a long-term basis, not just in the buying of shares, but in the youth policy and everything else he has done here."
Robson has been made the new favourite to take charge at Goodison with the newly installed caretaker Willie Donachie and the Stockport manager Dave Jones also in the frame.
The former England manager rejected the Newcastle job in January, but he has come under increasing pressure as Barcelona have slipped up in the title race, with their great rivals Real Madrid looking to be certain champions. To add to his difficulties, Robson has the arrival of the top Dutch coach Luis Van Gaal from Ajax to look forward to at the start of next season, and their working relationship has yet to be clearly defined.
Robson, who is 63 years old, would almost certainly require a younger coach to come in to work alongside him, and Ray Wilkins, who last week retired from his playing career, has expressed a keen interest in that position. Another player who would be in contention for the role would be the Everton goalkeeper who has made over 700 appearances for the Merseysiders, Neville Southall. "If I was asked to take over, of course I would accept," Southall said. "But no one has said anything to me, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks."