STEWART DONALD will be formally confirmed as Sunderland’s new owner in the next 24 hours, and the incoming chairman is keen to complete the appointment of a new manger before the end of the week.

Donald is expected to hold meetings at the Stadium of Light tomorrow morning, with the Football League ready to officially rubber-stamp his takeover from Ellis Short.

Both Donald and Short met Football League executives in London on Friday to lay out the financial terms of the change of ownership, and the EFL were satisfied with the funding programme that is in place. The governing body also received an update on Donald’s sale of National League club Eastleigh, which is a prerequisite of him taking charge at Sunderland.

Donald’s consortium, which includes a number of as-yet-unnamed international investors, is understood to have paid £40m to buy the Black Cats, with a series of further payments having been agreed in the event of Sunderland winning promotion to the Championship or Premier League.

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Short has wiped off £125.7m of debt, the majority of which he was personally owed, although Sunderland’s new owners have become responsible for a number of future transfer payments which are owed on players that have already arrived at the Stadium of Light.

Donald’s chief challenge will be to address the financial shortfall that proved so crippling under Short, but one of his more immediate tasks will be to complete the appointment of a permanent successor to Chris Coleman, who left in the final weeks of last season.

The incoming Sunderland hierarchy had been hoping to speak to Chris Wilder as they were aware of the Sheffield United boss’ mounting unhappiness at what he perceived to be a lack of support from the Bramall Lane board.

However, it appears as though most of those differences have been patched up, and sources in South Yorkshire now expect Wilder to sign a new contract with the Blades. Paul Cook, another potential target, has already signed a new long-term deal with Wigan Athletic.

As a result, Donald and his backers will have to cast their net slightly wider as they look to appoint a new boss, with Alex Rae, Michael Appleton and Phil Parkinson currently understood to be at the forefront of their thoughts.

Rae spent five years as a player with Sunderland between 1996 and 2001, helping the club win promotion to the Premier League under Peter Reid. He has managed at Dundee and St Mirren since hanging up his boots, but has been out of work since he was dismissed by the latter at the start of the 2016-17 season.

He is known to be extremely keen on a return to Wearside, and was initially mentioned as a possible partner for another former Sunderland player, Kevin Phillips. Phillips now looks unlikely to be considered in a managerial role, but Rae has emerged as a strong contender.

Appleton is another leading candidate, with the 42-year-old previously having managed Oxford United. Donald is a lifelong Oxford fan, and acquired a ten per stake in the club in July 2015.

Appleton has also managed at Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers, and while he is currently employed on the coaching staff at Leicester City, he is keen to return to frontline management.

Parkinson’s candidature has strengthened in the last few days as, like Wilder, he is understood to be involved in a stand-off with his current employers at Bolton Wanderers.

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The former Hull City, Charlton Athletic and Bradford City boss performed heroics to keep Bolton in the Championship in the final weeks of the season, but his position has been called into question in recent weeks as Bolton’s owner, Ken Anderson, has held a number of discussions with potential investors who are keen to buy in to the club.

Parkinson might well feel his job could be in jeopardy if a full-blown takeover was to take place, and Sunderland could use the uncertainty to their own advantage if they were to make a move of their own in the next few days.

Once Donald’s takeover is formally ratified, his long-term plans for the Black Cats should become clearer, but one of his associates, PR specialist Charlie Methven, provided an indication of the new owners’ ambitions in a weekend interview with the financial website

Donald’s consortium will inherit a club that posted an annual loss of £9.9m in its most recent accounts, which covered the club’s final season in the Premier League, as well as a wage bill of £84.4m.

That wage bill will have come down significantly in the last 12 months, but the club’s outgoings remain astronomical in League One terms, and the immediate priority will be to stem the flow of money seeping out of the club.

There will be an attempt to move on a number of high-earning players this summer, although as Sunderland have discovered in the past, that is sometimes easier said than done. The likes of Jack Rodwell, Didier Ndong, Papy Djilobodji, Lamine Kone and Lee Cattermole are all on wages that would dwarf those of any other player in League One.

“There’s a major task ahead with moving players on who are at inappropriate wages for the level we’re now at,” said Methven. “You need to be realistic about who you are. Sunderland faces the fact that they will be the game of the season for most teams, and they need to be humble enough to match the effort of the opposition if they want to succeed.”