Former Sunderland player Michael Gray believes Mark Hughes is the perfect candidate to revive the Wearsiders.
Steve Bruce paid the price for a poor start to the campaign last night when he became the first manager in the Barclays Premier League to lose his job this season.
And Gray, who played under Hughes at Ewood Park, has made former Blackburn, Fulham and Manchester City boss Hughes his "number one candidate".
The 37-year-old, who played for his hometown club from 1992-2004, told BBC Radio Five Live: "I was with him for four years at Blackburn and I know exactly how he works.
"He gets the best out of players. The last 15 minutes of games was when it counted, he had us so fit. And that's what Sunderland are missing at the moment.
"He's certainly number one on my list. I'd like to see either him or Martin O'Neill, but my number one candidate is Mark Hughes.
"I know he would hit the ground running, getting positive results for Sunderland and moving them into the top half of the Premier League."
O'Neill is the bookmakers' favourite ahead of Hughes as Sunderland owner and chairman Ellis Short begins the search for Bruce's replacement.
Saturday's home defeat to Wigan - who started the day bottom of the table - left Sunderland 16th in the league, just two points above the relegation zone.
Bruce insisted he had no intention of walking away from the club, despite fans calling for him to depart.
But Short had clearly seen enough after Wigan snatched a last-minute winner which means the Black Cats have won just two of their last 15 league games at the Stadium of Light.
In a statement released on the club's website, safc.com, Short said: "This has been a difficult time for everyone at Sunderland and is not a situation that any of us envisaged or expected to be in.
"It is my job as chairman to act in the best interests of our football club at all times and I can assure everyone that this is not a decision I have taken lightly.
"Sadly results this season have simply not been good enough and I feel the time is right to make a change.
"Steve has acted with honesty and integrity throughout, which is testament to the character and commitment he has shown during his time at Sunderland.
"I would like to personally place on record my thanks to him for his significant contribution to our football club over the past two and a half years and everyone here at Sunderland naturally wishes him the very best for the future.
"I would also like to thank our fans, who have endured a trying start to the season. Their support continues to be the driving force behind our club and is vital as we now look to the future."
Assistant manager Eric Black will take charge of the team ahead of Sunday's game at Wolves.