Sunderland have confirmed the Football Association has held talks with Sam Allardyce over the vacant England manager’s position.
Allardyce left the Black Cats’ pre-season training camp in Austria earlier this week and, although it was initially thought it was due to talks with a transfer target, the 61-year-old was subsequently pictured leaving the house of FA vice-chairman David Gill.
Sunderland on Wednesday admitted they had granted Allardyce permission to speak to the FA.
A club statement read: “The Football Association contacted Sunderland AFC to seek permission to speak with our manager as part of what was supposed to be a confidential discussion process with potential candidates for the position of England manager.
“At Sam Allardyce’s request, we agreed to this.”
The 61-year-old joined Sunderland in October 2015 and led them to Premier League safety with January signings of Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri particularly prominent.
Sunderland are eager for him to stay and urged the FA to make the process as swift as possible.
The statement continued: “Sam is very much key to our plans. After what was an extremely challenging season, we are keen to see a period of stability, both on and off the field, and we want him to remain as manager of our football club.
“The ongoing speculation over Sam’s position is extremely damaging to Sunderland AFC, particularly at this crucial time of the season and we urge the FA to respect the disruption that this process is causing and bring about a swift resolution to the matter.”
Allardyce reportedly has the backing of former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, who worked with Gill for many years at Old Trafford and remains an influential figure in his decision-making.
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann and AFC Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe are also fancied by the bookmakers but Allardyce appears to be in pole position to succeed Roy Hodgson, who resigned in the immediate aftermath of England’s Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland.
It is the second time Allardyce has been interviewed for the Three Lions post after losing out to Steve McClaren in 2006.
Since then he has furthered his club career which, apart from a short, unhappy spell at Newcastle United, has seen him work successfully at Blackburn Rovers and West Ham before moving to Wearside.
His boss at West Ham, co-chairman David Gold, believes Allardyce has the qualities required to improve England’s fortunes.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: “He is determined, he is ambitious. He’s been in the business a long time.
“I think the most important thing from my point of view is that he’s English.”