PHIL NEVILLE wants to be considered for the vacant managerial position at Sunderland, but former Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce claims the club will not return to a “fit state” until owner Ellis Short sells up.

Neville is understood to have confirmed his interest in taking over at the Stadium of Light via an intermediary, having turned down an opportunity to join David Moyes’ coaching staff at West Ham United in the last 24 hours.

The former Manchester United defender is keen to get into management, having gained some coaching experience with Spanish side Valencia working under both his brother, Gary, and Portuguese boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who is currently managing Wolves.

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He has been working in the media since leaving Valencia in 2016, but regards the Sunderland job as an ideal opportunity to get back into the dug-out at a club in the top two divisions.

A possible touchline tie-up with John O’Shea has been mooted, with the Black Cats defender having expressed a desire to move into coaching as his playing career begins to wind down.

Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain is currently assessing his options following last week’s dismissal of Simon Grayson, and is hoping to start conducting formal interviews before the weekend.

Aitor Karanka remains a leading candidate, and the former Middlesbrough manager was the subject of sustained support in the bookmakers’ markets yesterday, with most firms now making him their favourite to land the role.

As revealed in The Northern Echo last week, Karanka is keen to be considered for the Sunderland job, but would require some cast-iron guarantees about the club’s future direction before he agreed to take over on Wearside.

Ally McCoist is also interested in the position, and with Bain having canvassed the opinion of former Rangers boss Walter Smith prior to appointing Grayson in the summer, the former striker’s name is sure to have been discussed.

Bain was keen to look north of the border when he was making his last appointment, although his pursuit of Derek McInnes hardly went well when the Aberdeen boss opted to remain at Pittodrie.

He could look to utilise his Scottish contacts again, although sources close to the recruitment process have suggested Short is lukewarm about McCoist’s prospects.

The Irish-American businessman remains heavily involved in Sunderland’s day-to-day running, and used an interview with the club’s official website on Friday to underline the extent of his continued input.

While Bain has been charged with the task of laying the ground work for the appointment of Grayson’s successor, Short will have to give the green light to any decision.

Having pulled out of takeover discussions with a German consortium in the summer, Short has formally taken Sunderland off the market. He remains willing to talk to any interested parties, but is no longer actively marketing the club, something that worries Allardyce.

The former Black Cats boss left the Stadium of Light to take charge of England in the summer of 2016, and is currently being heavily linked with the managerial vacancy at Everton. He has expressed his sadness at Sunderland’s position at the foot of the Championship table, but feels meaningful change will be impossible for as long as Short remains in control.

“To get Sunderland back into a fit state, the club needs to be sold,” said Allardyce. “I think Ellis Short was fine while I was there, but it’s obvious he’s had enough. He’s pumped so much money into the club, and I don’t believe he wants to risk any more of his cash.

“They find themselves at the wrong end of the Championship table, they’ve sacked another manager – Simon Grayson – but the rot had set in at Sunderland and it’s very difficult to manage a club when they’re in that position.

“It’s even harder to overcome it and get a team back into the right direction. So maybe at this stage, a new owner is what’s left to change and should get them back on the right track at this period in the club’s history.”

Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay remain in caretaker charge, and the pair are overseeing training this week as Sunderland prepare for their first game after the international break, which will see Millwall visit the Stadium of Light a week on Saturday.

Sunderland’s development team are in action this evening as they end their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a game at Grimsby Town. Both sides have lost their opening two group games, and neither has a chance of progressing to the knock-out stage.

Meanwhile, Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch has been called up to the United States squad for next week’s friendly with Portugal.