PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM has refused to discuss his potential interest in taking over at Sunderland during his pre-match press conference this morning.

However, in a potentially telling comment, the Barnsley manager hinted a desire to leave Oakwell eventually in order to further his career, saying 'you would like to think you are on people's lists'.

Heckingbottom was speaking to the press at Oakwell ahead of Barnsley's weekend trip to Norwich City, and was asked about Sunderland's interest in acquiring his services.

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The former Darlington and Hartlepool United defender is one of Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain's preferred candidates to replace Simon Grayson, along with current Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill.

There has been no formal contact between Bain and the Barnsley board though, and Sunderland have not been given permission to speak to Heckingbottom personally.

The Tykes boss is aware of the Black Cats' interest, and while he is understood to harbour reservations about Sunderland's financial position and a potential lack of funds during the January transfer window, it is telling he did not categorically rule out a move to the North-East.

When asked whether there had been contact from Sunderland, Heckingbottom said: "No, there hasn’t.

"We have been sat here before, so the situation is no different. I have been asked these sorts of questions before about different clubs at different times. It is just what happens in football, it is all hypothetical.

"Until anything happens, I can’t tell you because I don’t know the club’s thoughts on it or my thoughts on it. “We’ve obviously spoken and had these conversations (him and Barnsley) but they will remain private. As it stands there is nothing in it.

"It is not being big-headed in any way, but you would like to think you are on people’s lists. Whether they will take it any further is down to them, but it is no different to me sitting here before when I have been asked similar questions about other situations."