MICK McCarthy claims the vacant job at Wanderers is his if he wants it.

The former Republic of Ireland chief has told associates in the Midlands that he was offered the chance to succeed Owen Coyle after a two-and-a-half hour meeting in Bolton last Friday afternoon.

His bold claim continues to be vehemently denied by sources at the Reebok, who had insisted just days after Coyle was sacked that the 53-year-old was not in the running.

But those close to McCarthy reckon discussions have been so far-reaching that the topic of accommodation had even been covered for him and long-term assistant Terry Connor.

To further complicate matters, McCarthy’s allies have also revealed he is on the wanted list at Wanderers’ Lancashire rivals Burnley and Blackburn Rovers, who are also on the hunt for a new boss.

They claim the chance to inherit a strong, but under-achieving squad from Coyle would be the former Millwall and Wolves manager’s favoured choice but that he does have reservations over some of the terms apparently offered to him.

McCarthy wants to bring in Connor, who served for four years at Molineux as his number two. If that were to happen, there would be no natural post for Sammy Lee – who, it is understood, will be a permanent feature on the training ground for any new appointment.

Jimmy Phillips and Julian Darby are also likely to be kept on by the club after stepping into the breach over the last week to prepare the side.

It is also rumoured that Yorkshireman McCarthy is not keen on a short-term contract, which would be accompanied with a big financial bonus should Wanderers succeed in their aim of gaining promotion this season.

Those claims continue to be stonewalled by those inside the Reebok - but a report yesterday put the silence down to an agreement that discussions would be kept under wraps until after the Whites travel to Molineux on Tuesday evening to avoid placing any unnecessary pressure from the media on the game.

From the moment talk of a shortlist surfaced, noises from within the Wanderers set-up hinted that a younger, fresher manager would be sought, with Ole Gunnar Solksjaer a top target.

Since the Norwegian went public last week with comments that he would remain with his club Molde at least for another month, other avenues have been explored - with informal discussions taking place with a handful of other candidates, including Portsmouth boss Michael Appleton and Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman.

News from McCarthy’s camp would suggest that shorter-term measures are being investigated and another experienced campaigner, Graeme Souness was also put into the frame by one report yesterday - but that link has also been met with a lukewarm reaction from inside the club.

The former Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers boss has not been in football for six years, and has worked as a leading pundit for Sky TV.

But although the Scottish manager, now 59, topped a straw poll run by The Bolton News yesterday with 31 per cent of the vote from McCarthy (28), Phillips (18), Freedman (17) and Appleton (7), his appointment would be considered a surprising one.

Souness has worked alongside Lee before, at Liverpool, and also made Phillips - who will take charge of the team against Bristol City on Saturday - his second signing after taking charge of Glasgow Rangers in the late eighties.