Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes will today open up talks over personal terms as Sunderland bid to secure him as their next manager.
The day the Red Army feared has finally arrived with McInnes on the brink of exiting the club he has revitalised over four years.
After some initial confusion, the statement fans were dreading finally emerged from Pittodrie – that the Reds had reached an agreement over a compensation package to allow McInnes to talk to the Championship Black Cats.
It is understood the Dons were holding out for £1.2 million in compensation for McInnes and assistant Tony Docherty, who both have two years left on their Pittodrie contracts.
At around 3.30pm yesterday, the club released a statement confirming McInnes and assistant Tony Docherty could go to Wearside to talk through personal terms. Sunderland do not anticipate a deal will be completed within the next 72 hours.
It will be the first time since Manchester United secured Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986 that Aberdeen have had a manager taken away by another club.
The statement read: “The club can confirm that early this afternoon Sunderland FC agreed to meet all the contractual obligations for both Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty and have, reluctantly, been granted permission to speak with both of them about the vacant managerial position at Sunderland.
“Aberdeen FC will be making no further comments at this time.”
That statement came just two hours after two Pittodrie board members had reiterated their determination to retain McInnes at the club.
Vice chairman George Yule and recently-appointed non executive director Dave Cormack remained hopeful they could fight off the approach from Sunderland.
Cormack insisted: “We don’t need Sunderland’s money, we don’t need anyone’s money. We don’t want our manager to go.”
Soon after, however, came confirmation a deal had been agreed.
Pittodrie chairman Stewart Milne and Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain had been in talks since Sunderland made their interest official.
Cormack said:”I haven’t talked to Derek specifically, we are leaving that to the chairman Stewart Milne. Whether it is Derek, anyone else or player contracts, if someone wants to move on at some stage conditions have to be met.
“If these conditions are met then it is up to the player, or Derek in this case, for us to say do you want to talk to these people and consider this.”
The imminent loss of McInnes is a blow, but one that the Reds are confident they will recover from quickly.
The approach from Sunderland did not come completely unexpected.
McInnes’ record of leading Aberdeen to runners-up in the Premiership for three straight seasons was always going to attract unwanted attention.
It is understood the Pittodrie board has plans in place should he decide to go.
Yule is confident, whatever happens, the club will remain strong.
He said: “Aberdeen FC has been here since 1903, through a number of managers and we will continue to be here.
“With any key member of staff, whether it is Derek, a player or people upstairs we don’t want to lose key staff. We do our very best to keep key staff.
“If at the end of that, with us having put our best foot forward, it is still not something they want to accept, we have to move on with our business.”
Aberdeen are in a state of flux as McInnes’ imminent exit has been preceded by the loss of several players.
A deal has been agreed for Jonny Hayes to move to Celtic, Ryan Jack signed on at Rangers and Niall McGinn, Peter Pawlett and Ash Taylor have also exited.
Cormack insists the funds are there to secure signings and there will be a larger player budget than last season.
He said: “We are investors here and are looking to put as much as we can in.
“And we have done it.
“Every season over the last few seasons we have increased the football budget and again that will be increased.”