Sunderland remain determined to land a big-name foreign manager in the summer.
The People says Sunderland's major shareholder Ellis Short was happy to go along with the elevation of Ricky Sbragia from coach to Roy Keane's successor - as long as the club kept looking for a big name foreign manager.
Chairman Niall Quinn was Sbragia's champion, persuading Short to give the coach an 18-month deal after the shock departure of Keane last month.
A source close to the Sunderland board said: "This was a clever move by the chairman as it has taken all the pressure off everyone and given the club some breathing space."
Several top foreign coaches have indicated they would be interested in the job at the end of the season, including Roberto Mancini, Ronald Koeman and Dick Advocaat.