Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has been tipped to become the next manager of Sunderlandfollowing the shock sacking of Howard Wilkinson and his assistant Steve Cotterill.

McCarthy, possibly alongside former Sunderland striker Niall Quinn, has been installed as favourite to replace Wilkinson.

Wilkinson’s sacking was announced on the club’s website last night.

The official statement read: ‘The board has decided that it is in the best interests of the club and its supporters to make a change immediately.

‘After just two wins in 20 league games the club’s situation has become very difficult, and it is therefore critical that a new manager be appointed to give confidence and revitalise the team as well as provide a much-needed boost for the fans.’

The duo only took over in October after the departure of Peter Reid. McCarthy, with former Sunderland striker Niall Quinn as a probable assistant, is the obvious favourite but David O’Leary and George Burley are other contenders.

Commenting on the announcement, chairman Bob Murray said: ‘The club and its supporters have faced disappointment over a drawn-out period.

‘This has been very difficult for everyone concerned, but we are absolutely determined to arrest the decline and revive the club. We will be appointing a successor before our crucial game against Bolton at the weekend.

‘The fans have been incredibly tolerant and supportive in the circumstances, and I would like to thank them for that.

‘We understand how people are feeling and regret this. We all want to see the team get back to winning ways and putting in the type of performances that will give the fans something to cheer about.’

Vice-chairman John Fickling added: ‘It is important that the new manager can improve our league position in the short term and help re-establish the club.

‘We know he will need to hit the ground running and as such we need to give him as much support as possible.’