SUNDERLAND are closing in on appointing Jack Ross’ successor and hope to have identified the man they want early this week.

The Black Cats have started to talk to the candidates they believe are most suited for the position and it is hoped they have their man in place before the weekend.

Sunderland, who sacked Ross last Tuesday, have been working on a short-list and believe they are at that stage and are now conducting interviews.

It has emerged Sunderland have already spoken to former Bolton and Bradford boss Phil Parkinson, while Wycombe’s Gareth Ainsworth, ex-Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel and Wigan’s Paul Cook – who has Peter Reid on his backroom team - are all under consideration.

Former Leicester and Derby manager Nigel Pearson is also in the frame having outlined his own desire to take on the challenge of reviving the Wearside club. He is understood to have suggested he will ask Kevin Phillips to be his No 2.

Intriguingly, though, Phillips has also admitted he has put his hat in the ring for the job after travelling up to the North-East for a dinner last Thursday.

Contact is already known to have been made with Stendel and Ainsworth, and Sunderland owner Stewart Donald is expected to be in a position to make a decision sooner rather than later. Millwall are also extremely keen on appointing Ainsworth as Neil Harris’ successor.

Phillips said: “I have reached out to the owner and put my hat in the ring. We’ll just see what happens in the next 24-48 hours.

“People keep saying to me, ‘you were great here as a player, if it doesn’t work out as a manager, it might tarnish your reputation’. But you can’t go through life like that.

Phillips added: “I’m sure Frank Lampard didn’t think like that when he went in at Chelsea and look how it has worked out for him - he is doing a great job. I’d love to have a conversation.

“I’ve been out of the game eight months now and I’m ready to go back. Of course, management is tough but I feel I have a lot to give and I certainly want a crack at it.

 “I’ve watched Sunderland closely and there is not an awful lot wrong. Things just need tweaking a little bit. Maybe they just need someone in there who can relate to the players. Maybe they need to try a fresh approach.

“If I was to go into the club in any capacity, the relationship with the fans would be there straight away. But that counts for nothing. Ultimately, it’s about getting results.”

That suggests Phillips would also be interested in returning to Sunderland as part of a backroom team, and he played under Pearson at Leicester before becoming a member of his coaching set-up.

Donald - who has decided to come off Twitter because of criticism from fans - is driving the search for a new manager at a time when the proposed takeover of the club by USA-based MSD Partners appears to have collapsed.

Sunderland have stated discussions continue.

The Sunderland statement read: "The board has consistently stated its desire to seek additional investment to enable the club to be competitive in whichever league it finds itself in.  “In League One, this (additional investment) is not a necessity, so it is a matter of looking to future requirements, if and when promotion is achieved.

"Discussions have been ongoing for some time, and continue to be so, but until those talks have concluded one way or the other the club cannot give further comment, owing to confidentiality agreements.

"Whilst we understand the desire of supporters to know how the process is developing, we would ask, please, for some patience. We will provide an update as soon as we are able to. In the meantime, please do not attach undue credence to speculation and theories from various sources, as they are unsubstantiated.

"The business of the club is in good working order, as we look forward to an exciting few months on the pitch, including crucial League One matches and a last 16 League Cup tie against Oxford United.”