WYCOMBE’S Gareth Ainsworth is one of a number of in-work managers Sunderland have asked to speak to as they step up their search for Jack Ross’ replacement.

The Black Cats are hoping to avoid having a hefty compensation bill to pay for Ross’ successor, so a lot will depend on the contracts their targets have signed.

Ainsworth’s deal at Adams Park is known to run until 2023 and Sunderland will be looking to see what would be involved to break him from that contract if things progressed that far. He has been granted permission to speak with Sunderland, with Wycombe believing he deserves that after the job he had done there. 

The 46-year-old has proven his managerial ability at the lower level by guiding Wycombe to promotion last year and, after keeping them up last season, the Chairboys sit second in League One.

Sunderland are considering all options available and owner Stewart Donald would not be doing his job properly if he didn’t consider someone like Ainsworth.

But he is not the only one on his list who he wants to speak to, and Sunderland are not being put off by those already in management at other clubs at this time.

Wigan’s Paul Cook and Coventry’s Mark Robins are two other contenders who Sunderland are keen to speak to, while Burton’s Sunderland-born Nigel Clough and Stoke’s under-fire Nathan Jones are two others being discussed.

But Donald, who has worked hard to realign the club’s finances since taking over following relegation from the Championship in May 2018, will not be rushing into anything he regards as too expensive.

Sunderland are having to be frugal on the cash front after missing out on promotion from League One last season and the failure to conclude a sale of the club to a group of American investors recently.

That is why candidates out of work are under serious consideration too, with Barnsley’s Daniel Stendel quick to signal his interest in the post after leaving Oakwell on the same day Ross left Sunderland.

The German, who went out for a few drinks with the Barnsley fans who adored him to say farewell on Wednesday, is not the only one who has made contact with the Stadium of Light.

The Northern Echo understands that former England and Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren has been in touch as well as his old striker at the Riverside Stadium, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Former Bolton and Bradford manager Phil Parkinson remains keen, although it has emerged ex-Birmingham and Derby boss Gary Rowett is focused on the Millwall job rather than Wearside.

Donald is already believed to have started to talk to contenders for the post, and that includes making formal contact with clubs to request to speak with the likes of Ainsworth and Cook.

The hope is sufficient progress will be made over the international break to have narrowed that down to a short-list in the build up to facing Ainsworth’s Wycombe at Adams Park on October 19. The likelier scenario is Sunderland’s new manager will be at the Stadium of Light for the visit of Tranmere three days later.