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Manager hunt: Odds fall on Heckingbottom taking charge of Sunderland as Karanka links wane

Movement in the betting markets this afternoon has the odds of Paul Heckingbottom taking charge at Sunderland falling sharply.

Sheffield United v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Now repeated by several journalists today, Sunderland appear not to have contacted Aitor Karanka about the vacant manager’s job at the Stadium of Light.

That waning interest in the prospect that the Spaniard might take charge has seen bookies slash the odds that Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom is being lined up by the Black Cats.

The odds at the bookmakers of the Tykes manager swapping South Yorkshire for Wearside had fallen from up to 16/1 earlier today to near-odds on by mid-afternoon before lengthening a little later on. The 40-year-old now heads the betting just behind the former Boro boss.

As most have now concluded that Karanka was probably just heading for home following his teaser on Twitter last night, local and national reporters have been spreading the word that Sunderland have not got in touch with the Spaniard about replacing Simon Grayson.

Stoke City v Middlesbrough - Premier League
Aitor Karanka
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Heckingbottom is highly rated for the job he’s performed at Barnsley on a shoe-string. The Oakwell side sit in 16th in the Championship, nine points better off than bottom-placed Black Cats.

The Tykes boss joined Sunderland as a 19-year-old in the mid-90s but never broke into the first team before going on to play for the likes of Darlington, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City before concluding his playing career at Gateshead and Harrogate Town.

Heckingbottom did deny any link to Sunderland last week, committing himself to the project he’s overseeing at Barnsley. The Tykes have remained competitive in the league this season despite losing some key players in the summer.

After looking set in for an extended relegation battle, Heckingbottom’s Barnsley went into the international break taking seven points from three games to propel them towards mid-table.

Oxford United v Barnsley - Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final
Heckingbottom led Barnsley to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2016
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post earlier this week, Heckingbottom suggested he expects his young squad to continue to grow and anticipates overseeing that transition.

But faced with ever challenging transfer windows safe in the knowledge other clubs will be sniffing around his players, perhaps the Barnsley-born native is ready for the next step in his career. Will that be at Sunderland though? A club with huge problems and financial restraints currently as severe as those at Oakwell. Well, the bookies think so this afternoon.