Chris Hughton favourite for Birmingham job

Birmingham have lined up six possible candidates to replace Alex McLeish as manager with former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton the current bookmakers favourite.

Ex-West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola and former West Brom head coach Roberto Di Matteo are also among the leading candidates under consideration.

But reports Birmingham had asked permission to speak to Portsmouth boss Steve Cotterill are believed to be wide of the mark.

City want to make an appointment as quickly as possible after McLeish resigned on Sunday after three and a half years in charge at St Andrew's.

Birmingham have to prepare for a Europa League campaign - if they come through the qualifying round in August - in addition to trying to gain promotion from the npower Championship at the first attempt.

Birmingham's acting chairman Peter Pannu said: "I am discussing the situation with (owner) Carson Yeung and we hope to install the new man as soon as possible.

"There are at least six (candidates) on the radar."

Hughton, who parted company with Newcastle in December, was the number one choice of Birmingham fans in a poll conducted by the Birmingham Mail newspaper.

But Di Matteo and Zola are also free agents after their spells at the Hawthorns and Upton Park respectively were brought to an end.

Blues are set to complete the signing of Morgaro Gomis from Dundee United on a free transfer despite McLeish's departure.

But the possible signing of PSV Eindhoven striker Danny Koevermans has been put on hold because of the managerial situation.

Pannu said: "Gomis is still coming in to Birmingham. Because of what's happened, Koevermans is having to think again."

Birmingham could be set to lose the services of last season's leading scorer Craig Gardner.

Gardner is a life-long Birmingham fan, but he is attracting interest from Sunderland who are managed by ex-Blues boss Steve Bruce.

The former Villa player netted 10 times last season despite missing a dozen games through injury and suspension, but could not save City from relegation from the Barclays Premier League.

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