Who should be the next Sunderland manager?
The newly vacated Sunderland job is a very desirable one. The new manager would inherit a decent but under-achieving squad and would get plenty of money to spend in the summer. Martin O’Neill spent £30m this season and there’s no reason that the new man in charge wouldn’t get the same. The new manager would be joining a club outside, albeit only just, the relegation zone and with some very good defensive personnel. Sunderland’s problems have come from a lack of attacking threat so the new manager would have to have improve that.
The best time to sack a manager is either the end of the season so that they can plan and implement a full summer window strategy or in December so that they can do the same for the January window. The big advantage of a summer appointment is that new tactical frameworks have time to be taught and bedded in.
Because of the timing of the O’Neill sacking, Sunderland have a difficult decision to make. Ideally, they need an experienced manager who has proven he can drag a team out of trouble at short notice. However, they need to ensure that the same manager will be good for the team in the long run as well.
With this in mind, here are some candidates Sunderland will and should be considering.
Gus Poyet – Brighton
Poyet is one of the hottest candidates outside the Premier League and has been attracting serious attention. Poyet turned down the Reading job last week and was rumoured to be heavily considering it. Poyet has brought slick passing and penetrative attacking play to Brighton allied with a solid defence. He is a very sophisticated tactician and game planner, which is exactly what Sunderland need. They’ve been playing some very basic football and need the new ideas that Poyet would bring to the club. Poyet tends to rely on his system and will use players to best facilitate that so that he wouldn’t be as reliant on individual flair as O’Neill was. Poyet implements a system of attacking patterns and structure to open defences as opposed to O’Neill, who was more dependant on moments of magic by his attack.
Poyet would be an ideal summer appointment, but the doubt is whether he can pull Sunderland out of trouble with no track record of doing so. But if he can do so, he would be a good option.
Roberto Di Matteo – Unemployed
Di Matteo is going to be the man most heavily linked to the job because he has shown that he can step in to a team mid-season and make a difference. He proved himself in the lower leagues with MK Dons and West Brom but then struggled at the latter in the Premier League before being sacked. He won trophies at Chelsea last year but the team was poor in the league and he was sacked this year after more poor league form and a Champions League exit.
With this in mind, should he really be considered by Sunderland? I would say no. He’s done badly in the Premier League on the both occasions he was in charge. If he does worse than O’Neill, then Sunderland might be relegated from the EPL.
Brian McDermott – Unemployed
This would be on a short-term basis with the possibility of offering him a full-time position if he keeps them up. McDermott did a stellar job at Reading and his sacking was ridiculous. The most important quality he has is that he can motivate average and struggling players to play above their ability level. This is exactly what Sunderland need right now. They’ve got some talent in there, but they’re playing with no confidence. McDermott is a quality motivator and could come in and make a difference quickly. He hasn’t been given a proper chance to prove himself in the Premier League, and so if he does keep Sunderland up, particularly with some flourish, then he would deserve a chance at success with some money to spend in the summer.
Neil Lennon – Celtic
This is a little left field but it makes sense. Lennon has shown in the Champions League that he can make a group of average players achieve far above what they can be expected to and his team are dominant in Scotland. So why would he want the Sunderland job? Well, he will have vastly greater resources available to him in the Premier League and a chance to prove that he can achieve things with even an average squad. If he can make his mark at Sunderland, it would be a stepping stone towards a big Premier League job. Lennon would infuse the team with grit and determination and his teams do score a lot of goals.