Sunderland position is O'Neill's to turn down

Mark Hughes second choice if Irishman decides to further delay return to dugout

The job of Sunderland manager is Martin O'Neill's to turn down with Mark Hughes, the other preferred candidate, forced to wait to discover whether the Northern Irishman sees the Stadium of Light as the platform on which to end his 16-month hiatus from football.

Less than 24 hours after parting company with Steve Bruce, the Wearside club, encouraged by positive noises coming from both individuals, have made contact with each man, and preliminary talks have taken place. However, it is the more experienced candidate to whom Ellis Short, Sunderland's owner, is ready to offer first refusal, after taking advice from Niall Quinn, the club's head of international development, who the billionaire Irish-American replaced as chairman in October.

O'Neill's potential return to management, following his sudden resignation from Aston Villa last August, is largely dependant on the amount of autonomy he will be granted by Short and the freedom to appoint his own coaching staff, allied to the level of budget he will have to invest, both in the January transfer window and beyond with the long-term aim of regularly challenging for Europe. Having afforded Bruce the thick end of £60m to spend on players in his fluctuating two-and-a-half year reign, assurances over O'Neill's latter concerns would not appear to be a major stumbling block, although privately Bruce had reservations regarding the amount of money that was to be put at his disposal had he remained in charge into next year.

If both criteria are acceptable to the 59-year-old, who was also the preferred candidate before Roy Keane took the job in 2006, there seems to be little else in the way to prevent his appointment. It is one which would be largely welcomed by Sunderland supporters, whose angry reaction towards Bruce in the wake of the damaging 2-1 home defeat by Wigan Athletic at the weekend helped to speed the departure of the 50-year-old, who had presided over just two victories this season.

O'Neill's at times uneasy relationship with Villa owner Randy Lerner, a business contemporary of Short, is seemingly not considered a major stumbling block by the Sunderland supremo, contrary to initial suggestions.

Beyond the two outstanding candidates, there has, understandably, been strong interest in the job, the first managerial vacancy in the Premier League since Hughes left Fulham in the summer. Carlos Queiroz, the former Manchester United assistant manager and Portugal coach currently in charge of the Iranian national side, has applied for the post made vacant after Short finally ran out of patience following a dismal run of just 21 points from a possible 81. Ronald Koeman, the 48-year-old manager of the Dutch side Feyenoord, is also believed to hold an interest in the role.

O'Neill has rebuffed interest from Championship sides West Ham United and his former club Leicester City in the past few months and should he opt to further delay his return to management, Hughes will be back in management just six months after leaving Craven Cottage.

In the meantime, Bruce's assistant Eric Black is preparing the side for Sunday's trip to fellow strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers, though the affable Scot was spared the far-from-onerous task of publicly discussing his thoughts on the situation, after the club cancelled their regular pre-match press conference today.

As Bruce takes stock, with suggestions his will be a relatively short period out of the game to re-charge his batteries before looking for a return to management in the New Year, there was sympathy from Newcastle's manager Alan Pardew, who is perhaps best placed to understand the unique pressures of top-flight football management in the North-east.

"On a personal level, I feel for Steve," he said yesterday, his side's impressive start to the campaign having exacerbated the problems faced by their near neighbours.

Pardew added: "He's someone I know reasonably well and I have great sympathy for him losing his job. It's difficult when results aren't what you want and they weren't what Steve wanted. I know he was desperate to get another game but unfortunately he didn't get it."

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices