Sunderland narrow search for Keane successor

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Sunderland were today beginning the process of drawing up a shortlist of candidates for the vacant manager's job.

The business of whittling down a list of more than 30 serious applicants was understood to be on the agenda for the Board's scheduled monthly meeting, although no hard and fast decisions were expected.

Chairman Niall Quinn and his fellow directors, with the input of American investor Ellis Short, are gradually reducing the options to a point where they can start to identify genuine contenders.

However, there is unlikely to be any swift appointment with the club's hierarchy acutely aware of the importance of Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with West Brom and the need for caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia and his players to be able to complete their preparations with no added distractions.

Former Bolton and Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce continues to lead the betting, but Gerard Houllier has been the big mover over the last 24 hours, while former Sunderland striker and current assistant at Rangers, Ally McCoist, has been quoted at 14/1 with the rumour mill going into overdrive.

However, while the club is saying nothing publicly about its targets, there is a growing feeling on Wearside that, while the usual suspects - among them Allardyce, Houllier and Alan Curbishley - are under consideration, as they appear to be for most jobs when they come up, the Black Cats are not limiting themselves to men with proven track records in English football.

Allardyce, of course, has made little secret of his desire to take on a job he turned down before Roy Keane accepted it at the second time of asking in August 2006.

That decision may not work in his favour this time around, although despite his ill-fated spell with derby rivals Newcastle, the job he did at Bolton before his move to Tyneside is still relatively fresh in the memory.

Curbishley and Martin O'Neill also held talks with the club back in 2006 before Quinn decided to step into the breach himself having failed to land the man he wanted.

Much is being made currently of Short's apparent desire to take a wider perspective, and the appointment of Chris Woerts as international business development director is a reflection of the club's desire to promote its brand globally.

Steve McClaren and Co Adriaanse, the Dutch coach of Austrian club Salzburg, like home-grown Hull boss Phil Brown and Thailand coach Peter Reid, have already distanced themselves from the race to succeed Keane.