Gus Poyet emerges as first choice to replace Paolo Di Canio as Sunderland manager

The former Brighton manager heads the list of potential candidates

The former Brighton manager Gus Poyet is the front-runner to succeed Paolo Di Canio as Sunderland's head coach, having impressed the club in meetings over the last 24 hours.

Poyet, 45, is understood to have met with member of the Sunderland hierarchy today including the new director of football Roberto De Fanti, who has is keen on the Uruguayan taking over at the club. Sunderland were at home to Peterborough in the Capital One Cup third round tonight.

The appointment of Poyet would be relatively straightforward for Sunderland, and the club would only have to agree on a length of contract once he has accepted the job. It was always Poyet's intention to move up to the Premier League this season, having managed Brighton in League One and, after their promotion, taken them to the Championship play-offs.

Paolo Di Canio was dismissed on Sunday Paolo Di Canio was dismissed on Sunday

The scale of the task facing him at Sunderland would be considerable. Di Canio's successor has to work with a demoralised squad who are bottom of the Premier League with one point from five games. They face Liverpool at home on Sunday, Manchester United at home a week on Saturday and the first derby of the season against Newcastle looms on 27 October.

In the past, Poyet has also been closely monitored by Fulham who have experienced a difficult start to the season, however, Sunderland offers him the most immediate chance of a return to management. At Brighton, Poyet's ability to build a successful team that played attractive football - despite a limited budget - made a considerable impression.

He is still considering legal action against Brighton who dismissed him on 23 June following a convoluted disciplinary process. Poyet has always strenuously denied his sacking by Brighton on a gross misconduct charge although it is not clear exactly what that charge is based upon.

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