Sunderland's decision to part company with head coach Paolo Di Canio means there is a vacancy at the Stadium of Light.

Whoever takes over will have a tough job on their hands with the Black Cats propping up the Barclays Premier League after a poor start to the season.

Here, we looks at the contenders to replace Di Canio.

Roberto Di Matteo Credit: PA

Roberto Di Matteo

Has been out of work since being sacked as Chelsea boss in November 2012. Started his managerial career at Milton Keynes Dons before joining West Brom. Led the Baggies to promotion to the top flight but was dismissed in February 2011. Gained his big break when he was appointed as Andre Villas-Boas' assistant at Chelsea before becoming caretaker boss when the Portuguese was sacked. Promptly led the Blues to an FA Cup and Champions League double. Became permanent manager in June 2012 but lasted just five months before the axe fell.

Gus Poyet Credit: PA

Gus Poyet

Left Brighton in acrimonious circumstances but won many admirers on the south coast for a style of play which led the Seagulls to promotion out of League One and to the Championship play-offs. A former Uruguay international, also enjoyed playing spells with Chelsea and Spurs in England.

Steve McClaren Credit: PA

Steve McClaren

Still mocked by many for his disastrous spell in charge of England, McClaren's club record is not without merit. Cut his managerial teeth at Middlesbrough before taking on the Three Lions job which ended in the sack after failing to guide the side to the 2008 European Championship finals. Rebuilt his reputation by leading FC Twente to the Eredivisie title but struggled subsequently at Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and in a second spell at Twente.

Tony Pulis Credit: PA

Tony Pulis

Left Stoke after a hugely successful seven year spell - his second at the club. Guided the Potters from a mid-table Championship outfit into a formidable Premier League force. Unlikely to be a popular choice given his reputation for long-ball football.

Ally McCoist Credit: PA

Ally McCoist

A former Sunderland striker, albeit with little success, McCoist took over as Rangers boss in 2011 but was powerless to prevent the club being relegated to the fourth tier of Scottish football for off-the-field misdemeanours. Won promotion last season and would surely be tempted by the chance to try his luck south of the border.