Sunderland are set to step up their bid to secure Dons boss Derek McInnes as their new manager by making a formal approach to Aberdeen.
The Black Cats have yet to make contact with the Reds regarding McInnes who still has two years left on his Pittodrie contract.
However, the Dons are bracing themselves for that to change within the next 48 hours.
Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain is understood to be keen on opening the interview process over the next few days.
McInnes is on a family holiday overseas and in the aftermath of the 2-1 Scottish Cup final loss to Celtic indicated it would take “something special” to take him away from Pittodrie.
However, he remains the bookies’ favourite to replace Davie Moyes and is high on Bain’s wish list.
Bain has turned to former Rangers boss Walter Smith for advice on who should be the man tasked with hauling Sunderland back to the Premier League. It is understood Smith, who brought McInnes to Rangers from Morton in 1995, gave a glowing report.
A potential stumbling block to any bid for McInnes could be the compensation package required to secure the 45-year-old.
McInnes and assistant Tony Docherty both have contracts until summer 2019 and it is understood compensation could be around £1m. Sunderland are £100m in debt.
Sunderland are remaining tight-lipped over the process to replace former Manchester United and Everton boss Moyes.
The other names to have been linked to the vacant position included former Leeds United and Swansea City boss Garry Monk.
Monk now looks set to join Middlesbrough. Others linked to the Stadium of Light are Barnsley’s Paul Heckingbottom and former Wolves boss Paul Lambert.
Former Celtic and Borussia Dortmund star Lambert quit Wolves at the end of the season.
The former Aston Villa, Blackburn and Norwich boss’ Championship experience could appeal to Sunderland.
The fact he is no longer in a post at another club and would require no compensation is also a positive.
Meanwhile, winger Jonny Hayes’ imminent move to Celtic could hinge on Ryan Christie coming to a decision on his Parkhead future.
The Dons reluctantly granted permission for Hayes, contracted until 2019, to talk to Celtic.
Hayes has agreed terms on a three-year deal with the treble winners with only the formalities to be ironed out. The transfer of Hayes, who is with the Republic of Ireland squad in Dublin, could include a player-plus cash deal with Christie.
Attacker Christie, 22, impressed during a six-month Pittodrie loan spell. Aberdeen remain keen to take Christie as part of a deal for Hayes who the club value at £1m plus.
The Dons have announced two pre-season games in July in preparation for their Europa League qualifying campaign.
They face St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Saturday, July 1, and Arbroath at Gayfield on Thursday, July 6.