ALL signs point towards Ole Gunnar Solskjaer topping Wanderers’ wish-list to fill the vacant manager’s role at the Reebok.

Chairman Phil Gartside was in London yesterday, where the Norwegian coach had been scheduled to speak alongside Swindon Town boss Paulo di Canio and ex-England keeper David James at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge.

But the former Manchester United man, now in charge of Molde, pulled out of the appearance at the last minute, adding fuel to the flames of speculation that he was being lined-up for an official approach.

His representatives hastily put his late withdrawal down to illness and claimed he had returned to Norway.

Solskjaer had watched Manchester United’s development squad face Southampton at Altrincham on Monday night and is believed to have stayed in the country to attend the prestigious conference, alongside a handful of Wanderers backroom staff and Fabrice Muamba.

His no-show, coupled with Gartside’s business trip to the capital, raises the prospect that the 39-year-old, who has emerged as the fans’ choice to succeed Owen Coyle, could be within reach.

After resisting overtures from Aston Villa in the summer, it is understood Solskjaer expressed an interest in the vacant role at Blackburn Rovers after Steve Kean’s sacking.

But Wanderers fancy their chances of landing the man - dubbed the baby-faced assassin during his playing days - who is regarded as one of the best young talents in management.

It is by no means a clear-cut issue, however, and an air of mystery has also developed around former Wolves boss Mick McCarthy, who had been ruled out as a contender yesterday.

Sources in the West Midlands claim the 48-year-old was sounded out for the role and could yet be brought in for talks with the club, along with long-serving assistant Terry Connor.

Meanwhile Michael Appleton, the Portsmouth manager who has also been strongly linked with Wanderers in the last couple of days, insists he has had no contact with the club.

Speaking at his weekly press conference yesterday, the former Manchester United midfielder said he was treating the link as speculation.

“I can’t control people linking me to other clubs,” he said.

“From my point of view, until I’m contacted by Bolton or any other club out there or I’m contacted by the administrator to tell me there’s an interest I’ll continue to work with the players.

“They deserve my full 100 per cent commitment. I’ll continue to do that until I know differently.

“It would be very rude and out of order for me to not concentrate on the process which is going on down here at Portsmouth.”

Meanwhile, one national newspaper has reported that Alan Curbishley turned down the chance to speak with Wanderers.

The former Charlton boss had been one of the front runners in the early betting.