The Four Tops


We seem to be waiting for a lot of things. A takeover, a clean sheet, another managerial sacking… I suspect the sacking will follow the takeover and more clean sheets will follow that but, while we seem set on getting rid of the current management team, who would take over? And when? If a decision is taken quickly then it could result in an appointment that the new owners don’t want.

If a long term appointment is made with the agreement of the new owners and based on their budget, there’s a risk that the deal could then fall through (though I don’t think it will) and then we’re lumbered with potentially a very highly paid manager we can’t afford.

What follows are my four suggestions as to who could be persuaded to take on the job of leading us back to the promised land.

Nigel Clough

A popular choice with many Sunderland fans but, if I’m honest, I’ve never really understood why. He’s from Sunderland and is the son of a club legend which obviously is a massive plus but only if he can back it up managerially. As Darren Ferguson will tell you, management isn’t genetic. After 21 years of management, Nigel has had very little success and almost no out and out failure. His success has been to achieve what he has with almost no budget in a club never likely to reach more than the lower reaches of the Championship. When given the chance to develop his career with Derby and Sheffield United, Clough was able to maintain their position in the Championship but not move them forwards. I suspect he could do a decent job at calming everything down and perhaps getting us promoted but, for me, it would not be a long-term answer to a club that needs the whole football side of the business looking at. It needs a bigger character. Someone you wouldn’t argue with.

Roy Keane

Keane has always talked about unfinished business with Sunderland, his relationship with Ellis Short causing more problems than anything on the pitch. Part of me would love to see him return, pick up where he left off and take us to the top but part of me knows it wouldn’t be like that. He has form when it comes to Texan billionaires and, with the greatest respect to Donald and Methven, I’m not sure if they’d live through a Keane meeting. He has no experience of the league we’re playing in and has only limited experience of management in any division. He suffers fools badly and League One is blessed with many. He struggles with substandard players in his team or the opposition and his history with referees makes me think he’d hate League One. That’s not saying he couldn’t get us out of the division. We’d be organised and he’d make some of our players stronger and more able but, sadly, for me his failure to find another management role tells us a lot. In this case, I’d stick with ‘don’t go back’. Director of Football responsible for keeping every aspect of the football club moving forwards… well that’s another matter, and another article.

Chris Hughton

Hughton would, I think, be a very safe pair of hands. He has never failed in his managerial career and can consider himself unlucky to have lost his job at Newcastle, Norwich and Brighton. The question is whether he’d be interested in the project and dropping down two divisions from where he is probably waiting patiently for the first managerial removal at Premier League level. He has no experience at League One level but is said to be staggeringly organised in all aspects of what he does. Would that be enough at this level? I’m not sure but I’d be delighted if he could be persuaded to sign up to the project. But, that said, if we can afford Hughton and think we could persuade him to drop down to League One, then why stop there, why not go for an even bigger catch…

Sam Allardyce

Allardyce has it all. There will always be the suggestion that Big Sam can smell a full wallet at fifty paces and I suspect he wouldn’t look at a Donald/Methven ownership as being worthy of his time, but Dell and friends might just be enough to bring him to the table. Twice he has left Sunderland to further his career and failed to do so. Could it be third time lucky for the big man? He is an expert at working with what he has, cutting his cloth to fit and getting the best out of players. He’s been promoted from League One and the Championship. He’s big enough to deal with the pressure of managing a club of our size. The downside of Sam is financial. He won’t come cheap but, if a deal could be structured based on future success and promotions and longer-term tie ins, I think we’d be getting a man who could take us all the way to the Premier League. At 64 this would probably be his last job but how better to sign off than returning Sunderland to where we belong. The job needs an experienced character with a personality that won’t let him be distracted or kept down, able to build the club style and make our players become more than the sum of their parts. I think it’s a real shame that Jack Ross doesn’t have those attributes, but I can come up with a reason all four of the above are better placed to take us forwards. For me, if we’re prepared to pay, we should pay for Big Sam but you wouldn’t find me too upset with any of them. Time will tell…


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