LONDON • English Premier League football club Sunderland have identified Sam Allardyce as their first choice to replace Dick Advocaat as their next head coach.
But the Black Cats face a battle to persuade the 60-year-old to cut short his sabbatical from management to join a club in the throes of crisis and grappling with a relegation battle.
Sunderland are currently 19th in the Premier League, above Tyne-side rivals Newcastle, with three points from eight games.
Lee Congerton, Sunderland's sporting director who is serving a 12-month notice period after deciding that he wants to leave, is aware that Allardyce is reluctant to move to Wearside. But he has been given the go-ahead by Ellis Short, the club's owner, to push for his appointment.
According to the Daily Mail, Real Sociedad manager David Moyes and Burnley's Sean Dyche have indicated that they do not want to be considered for the job. And The Guardian said former Tottenham and West Ham boss Harry Redknapp has ruled himself out.
Allardyce has been out of work since leaving West Ham at the end of last season and indicated then that he would not be interested in succeeding Advocaat, who initially retired after guiding Sunderland off the foot of the table.
On that occasion, the approach came too soon, but now his uncertainty is for different reasons.
With Sunderland's long-term structure in doubt, Allardyce is also about to embark on a promotional tour for his new autobiography. He is understood to be presently in Spain and has indicated to friends that, for now, he is not interested.
Short, however, is desperate for a big-name manager and one with experience to lead Sunderland from their parlous position at the foot of the Premier League.
Allardyce is his clear favourite and he is eager to speak to the Englishman, although fallback options include Nigel Pearson, who is available after his dismissal by Leicester City despite presiding over a successful fight against relegation.
According to some reports, Sunderland could also make a pitch for the sacked Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
Advocaat on Monday ensured that the manager who replaces him will be under no illusions about the size of the task that awaits him.
"Our squad was simply not good enough," he said. A refrain which Gustavo Poyet, Paolo di Canio and Martin O'Neill, his immediate predecessors, would not disagree with.
THE TIMES, LONDON