SUNDERLAND chiefs claim they are ready to walk away from a 'potential sale' of the club if a takeover is not concluded swiftly after finding it increasingly difficult to appoint a new manager.

With just six weeks remaining until the start of the new season, the Football League's fixtures due to be revealed on Wednesday and pre-season training only a fortnight away, the Black Cats remain managerless after Derek McInnes' decision to stay with Aberdeen.

McInnes' stance piled on the frustration for fans and chief executive Martin Bain, who had even flown out to Florida in a bid to tie up a deal.

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But the Dons boss was reluctant to take the gamble, knowing Sunderland owner Ellis Short is in the process of trying to sell up.

A Germany-based consortium is said to have held advanced discussions aimed at taking over the Wearside club, but with nothing imminent the situation is hindering Sunderland's recruitment process.

Now Sunderland, who do have a shortlist of alternatives to McInnes including favourite Simon Grayson, are suggesting they are unlikely to be making a managerial appointment until the future of the club has been sorted.

A Sunderland statement: "Since the end of the season, our focus has been to appoint a new manager. Recently, however, discussions have been entered into with parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring ownership of the club.

"With this backdrop, we have been unable to give the assurances any potential candidate would need regarding the plans a new owner could have for the manager’s position. The recruitment process, whilst still very much active, cannot therefore be concluded imminently.

"In talking to parties who have shown interest in acquiring the club, owner Ellis Short is determined to make sure that the best interests of Sunderland AFC are at the heart of any decision regarding its future.

"We are of course acutely aware of the need to act swiftly to appoint a manager and to ensure that this is the case, have placed a time limit on discussions regarding a potential sale.

"If discussions are not concluded within our defined timeframe, we will terminate the process and move swiftly and positively forward with plans for the new season. Detailed pre-season preparations are already in place and our aim is to do everything we can to ensure Sunderland’s return to the top flight."

Since McInnes' decision to turn down Sunderland's overtures, Preston have expected an approach after learning Grayson was a front-runner.

Bain needs to come up with a way of bouncing back from the farcical situation. Grayson and McInnes were both the leading contenders a week ago, only for Bain to decide to opt for McInnes, with an agreement being reached with Aberdeen over compensation.

That was believed to have been around the £1m mark, but Bain was still unable to persuade the Scot to take on the job when he flew over to Florida.

The Aberdeen manager’s decision to remain at Pittodrie has left Bain having to weigh up his next move, and he faces similar discussions with other contenders who will be similarly concerned about the direction of Sunderland.

A major rebuilding job is on the cards, where costs are still being dropped even after the £30m sale of Jordan Pickford to Everton.

Grayson ticks a lot of boxes among the Sunderland board, having proven himself at Football League level on smaller budgets and a move to the North-East would allow him to move closer to his North Yorkshire roots.

Despite Sunderland’s financial problems – they have debts in excess of £100m – and costly fall from the Premier League, he would still have a much bigger budget to work with than at Deepdale. It is hard to imagine any manager gambling on taking over a club which could have new owners soon though.

McInnes was highly recommended and, beyond Grayson, he has also been encouraged to move for Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder, who Sam Allardyce suggested Crystal Palace should consider for after leaving Selhurst Park.

Bain will be aware of the criticism he has received after failing to strike a deal with McInnes, and supporters hope for something positive to happen during this period of frustration and uncertainty.

Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips, ex-Wolves boss Paul Lambert and former Leicester manager Nigel Pearson are the three other main names under consideration.

The last time Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League was in 2006 and at the start of the following season they were paired with Bury in the League Cup.

And when the draw was made yesterday for next season’s competition, Sunderland have been paired with the Shakers once again.

Sunderland, who are due at Bury on July 7 for a friendly as well, will head to Gigg Lane for the first round during the week beginning August 7. Sunderland suffered a humiliating defeat there 11 years ago when Arnau Riera was sent off and Niall Quinn emerged afterwards to say he was on the verge of appointing a ‘world-class’ name. Roy Keane took over and led them to promotion.

* Due to a technological error, the wrong version of yesterday's back page was printed. The page containing the news that Derek McInnes had turned down the manager's job at Sunderland was completed but not published.

The correct version of the story did appear online.

We apologise for the error.