With the Wearsiders currently sat bottom of the Championship, and lacking a permanent manager to help steady the sinking ship, Ross Bramble looks at the next step for the Mackems.
Another season, another Sunderland sacking. Well, actually, more than that; another season, another Sunderland crisis.
At the time of writing (always a dangerous thing to have to write), Sunderland are once again without a manager, and are once again in a relegation battle. This time, of course, it’s not the Premier League trapdoor that looms large for the Black Cats – it’s the Championship’s.
There was a feeling relegation to the Championship would be a purification ritual for Sunderland. After so many years of circling the drain, chopping and changing managers, crawling their way to Premier League safety year on year, relegation would be the excuse they needed to wipe the slate clean.
Unfortunately, Simon Grayson – despite appearing the perfect candidate on paper back in the summer – has seen himself sacked and the side rock bottom of the Championship on a meagre 10 points from a possible 48.
The hunt now begins for a manager who can save Sunderland from a second successive relegation. The favourites include Aitor Karanka, John O’Shea, Ally McCoist and Phil Brown – quite a motley crew, all things considered. The gambit runs from managers who impose attacking, possession football to managers with zero managerial experience whatsoever. And that poses a question: where exactly do Sunderland go next?
It’s difficult to say with any great certainty, since Sunderland have courted every brand of manager over the past few seasons; the newcomers like Paulo Di Canio, the reliable hands like Sam Allardyce, the forward thinkers like Gus Poyet. Each one has fallen by the wayside, or in the case of Big Sam, have been poached at the peak of their success at the club.
Aitor Karanka’s cryptic tweet sparked speculation the Spaniard was the next man to try his hand at the Stadium of Light, but reports thereafter seem to suggest the Black Cats are yet to approach him. Moreover, given Karanka’s desire to join a stable club with a long-term project, are Sunderland really the club for a manager like him? It’s unlikely.
So, what about a more typically British SOS manager? Well, that was what Simon Grayson was meant to be – someone who had been there and done that, someone who could be trusted to rebuild a broken home. But the foundations, apparently, were too rotten even for the former Preston boss. Who else then would be interested in a challenge like this? Chris Powell? Harry Redknapp, perhaps? Well, given his recent Birmingham City run, would he be up for another Championship relegation scrap? That, too, seems unlikely.
It would seem Sunderland’s best hope presents itself in the form of a newcomer. Ex-players seeking their first big break. John O’Shea seems popular among the Sunderland Twitter community, and Kevin Phillips’ name has been bandied about, too. Cutting your teeth in the Championship is always a tricky ask, but given Sunderland’s current state, is a Black Cat relegation going to spoil their CV going forward? You would like to think not.
Whoever Sunderland plump for, they are in for a long and tough campaign. This is a job that would attract plenty of interest if it became available in the summer, but given their start, becomes a far murkier proposition. If I were the man making the decisions, my first instinct would have been the Shrewsbury Town boss Paul Hurst. His interest in the role, however, given the Shrews success, may well be tenuous.
No matter who takes the Sunderland hot seat for the remainder of the season, the Black Cats are on course for another difficult season. The hope will be that this is their final hurdle before the good times can come again – whether they be in the Championship, or in League One.
Follow Ross on Twitter @rossbramble
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