SUNDERLAND have held talks with head coach candidates and are now preparing a string of formal interviews before a decision is made on Michael Beale's permanent successor.

Black Cats bosses had what sporting director Kristjaan Speakman described as a "conscious period of reflection" after Beale's problematic tenure came to an end in February, with Sunderland's hierarchy keen to ensure they didn't rush to appoint his replacement.

Mike Dodds was put in caretaker charge for the second time this season and is set to hold that position until the end of the campaign despite Sunderland's wretched recent run of form. The Black Cats have failed to win in their last seven outings and although they're still nine points above the drop, they desperately need to stop the rot in the Easter weekend double header, with a trip to Cardiff City on Good Friday followed by a home game against struggling Blackburn on Easter Monday.

Dodds has the backing of Speakman and owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, who continue to assess their options as they prepare to make a permanent appointment in the summer.

Alex Neil, Tony Mowbray and Beale were all out of work when they were appointed but Speakman hasn't ruled out making an approach for a head coach already in a job. In a recent meeting with the Supporters' Collective, he did, however, say "there was a little correlation between a compensation fee and future success", adding "there are simply too many variables".


Providing an update on the manager search, Speakman revealed in the meeting earlier this month that Sunderland "are now engaging in meetings with prospective head coaches. This will flow into formal interviews and a decision".

Reims boss Will Still - who featured prominently in Sunderland's thoughts after Mowbray's exit - remains on the club's radar. The 31-year-old is desperate to manage in England and has admitted recently that he would be willing to take a job in the Championship.

Danny Rohl - who has an impressive job since taking charge of Sheffield Wednesday at the back end of last year - is also said to be in Sunderland's thinking.

Whoever gets the job this summer will be allowed to bring their own backroom team with them, confirmed Speakman. Beale arrived on his own and his coaching team was made up of staff who were already at the club.

Dodds will almost certainly have a key role to play in the coaching set-up come the summer,  but the Black Cats will give the new head coach the green light to be joined by their own backroom staff "providing it was an appropriate recommendation", but Speakman added: "The club are also keen to maintain consistency and continuity across football operations, as like new ideas, input and people, this will aid success."

The new head coach will also have a say in the club's recruitment plans, insists Speakman. In the minutes of the Supporters' Collective meeting, it says: "The strategy is set by the club’s ownership group and board of directors, who then appoint a sporting director to lead on this area of the club.

"A head coach is then appointed on a very transparent set of principles and as a  member of the leadership team, is involved in every of the stage of the player recruitment process."