SUNDERLAND will not have to pay much in compensation should they decide Gareth Ainsworth is the right man for the manager’s job after a week that, executive director Charlie Methven has revealed, was always going to be crucial in determining Jack Ross’ future.

While maintaining comments from the club’s owner Stewart Donald earlier this week that talks to find investment remains ongoing – and hinting a takeover will not be concluded – Methven has admitted this international break was when Ross’ position would be evaluated and considered.

Sunderland acted to sack Ross on Tuesday and have worked on a replacement since, with Wycombe boss Ainsworth and Wigan manager Paul Cook two of those under serious consideration, while Mark Robins knocked advances back to sign a new contract with the Sky Blues.

Donald is having to press ahead with attempts to bring in investment after it was reported earlier in the week that attempts to sell to an American investment group linked to Dell Technologies had broken down – although Methven has denied that.

Methven, in an interview with The Telegraph, said: “There have been a lot of rumours and things said that are simply not true. The talks to attract investor - we have never said it is a takeover – remains ongoing.  “Those discussions have been going on for some time but we must stress, this is about planning for the future in the Championship, but we need to get promoted first. We need to get out of League One for the next part of the project to begin.”

He added: “That has had no impact whatsoever on the decision to sack the manager. We always planned to look at the how things were going after the first quarter of the season and after 11 games, with three quarters of the season remaining, we did not feel things were going as well as they should be.

 “Some people felt we removed Ross too soon, others think we took too long, we will only know whether it was the right decision in the fulness of time, but our sole aim is to get promoted this season. We are currently working through a fairly conventional process of identifying the right person to get the team out of League One.”

Ainsworth is now the front-runner for the Sunderland job after it emerged such a move will not require much of a compensation fee to prise him away from Wycombe, despite having a contract until 2023 at Adams Park.

The Chairboys have given him permission to speak with the Black Cats, although it has now emerged that Championship club Millwall are also looking to speak with him having already shown an interest in Gary Rowett.

That places Ainsworth in a strong position having guided Wycombe up to second in the table after sustained success for the relatively small club during his time in charge. Barnsley’s Daniel Stendel and Wigan boss Paul Cook are also under serious consideration at Sunderland.

Coventry boss Robins signed a new contract at the club just a day after being approached by Sunderland, who have made contact with a number of candidates as they look to draw up a shortlist.

"On the back of the approach from Sunderland, the club reacted really quickly with a new contract offer and I am grateful to them for that," Robins told the club website of his talks with chief executive Dave Boddy.