Jack Ross became the latest manager to be sacked by Sunderland on Tuesday after a faltering start to the season as the question now turns to who’s next?
The Scot has only lost two of the 14 games in all competitions so far this campaign but with a continuation of poor performances and draws from last season, he has failed to convince supporters, and now chairman Stewart Donald, that he can get Sunderland promoted this time around.
With Sunderland sitting in sixth place in League One, eight points behind leaders Ipswich Town, the focus now shifts to who will come in to replace Ross and whether or not they can succeed where he didn’t.
As is often the case with these articles it is often easy to get caught up between realism and cynicism when deliberating the who’s and why’s but, given Sam Allardyce has already ruled himself out of the running, I will try and keep it within reason.
Of course, of lot may, or my not, depend on whether the club is to be part of an imminent takeover or not. If you believe everything you read then it looks likely that takeover has fallen through and as such the next man in charge will be installed purely by Donald.
With that in mind, it is likely to assume we will not be looking to take any manager out of a current contract due to the financial constraints it may cause having already had to cough up on the dismissal of Ross. So, who are the out of work managers we could approach?
Coincidentally, Stendel and Barnsley parted company just hours before Ross was given his marching orders from the Stadium of Light. Now I have no doubt the two aren’t linked, but Stendel’s availability is something which would likely interest Donald. The German arrived at Oakwell last summer and managed to beat Sunderland to the final automatic promotion spot in League One last season all the while earning approval for his high pressing approach to games along the way. For many, Barnsley were the standout visitors to the SoL last season despite losing 4-2 and caused us a lot of problems. With experience of earning promotion already under his belt and a style of play not too dissimilar to that which Ross attempted to implement in the early months of last season, Stendel wouldn’t be the worst out of work manager to consider.
Gary Rowett w/ Kevin Phillips
Assuming that this is how Phillips still wants to work as opposed to being an outright number one, then the double act of Rowett and Phillips could be a shrewd appointment for Sunderland. The presence of Phillips on the sidelines in any capacity would be enough to galvanise the supporters once more and get them back on board with what we are trying to achieve, and while Rowett may have done little to impress in his previous role, a drop down to League One might be just the tonic he needs. He narrowly missed out on promotion with Burton Albion, losing in the play offs in consecutive years, before steering Birmingham City away from the Championship relegation zone and into play-off contention. His dismissal from St Andrews came following a change of ownership and was met with plenty of disapproval given the turnaround he had managed. He oversaw another play-off defeat with Derby County in 2018 before a miserable time at Stoke City most recently in the Championship. Could Rowett revitalise his career here at Sunderland? It certainly seems like the kind of role he’d be interested in, and with club legend Phillips alongside him he would have an immediate headstart.
The alternative of course would be Phillips on his own. It would represent a huge gamble from Donald to task Phillips with guiding us to promotion in his first managerial job but the potential rewards for it are almost too good to type. Phillips would be the nostalgic choice and would be given every chance by supporters akin to the treatment Frank Lampard is receiving from Chelsea supporters currently. Having worked with Rowett at both Derby and Stoke Phillips may be ready to take the plunge into the big seat and has admitted in the past how he would certainly consider the role but does he have the ability to take us back to the Championship? The danger with this appointment is of course the potential to tarnish a legacy like no others at the club. This would very much be classed as a risk-reward appointment. Can Sunderland afford such an appointment at this crucial stage in the club’s history?
Another nostalgic appointment would be former manager Keane. The Irishman gave us two of the more memorable seasons supporting Sunderland when he took us from bottom of the Championship to survival in the Premier League before it turned sour. Would Keane take the role given the predicament of the club and everything he has going on at the moment? It’s doubtful. In addition, the game has moved on even since his time here. Would the Roy Keane hairdryer treatment work in such a player power orientated environment now? Would he be allowed to resolve any questionable attitudes or work ethic in the dressing room? His spell at Ipswich leaves a lot to be desired. Would it be best to leave this one in the past? But if he did accept, and if he did get it right again…
The former Bolton manager would again represent someone out of work and more than likely to be easily attained. Parkinson left Wanderers in the summer due to the turmoil of the club and its ownership but does have experience of gaining promotion from League One having done so with Bolton in 2017. His side took four points from Sunderland during our Championship campaign and managed to ensure their status in the league for another season. While they were relegated the following season the rot above him had already set in by that point. This would perhaps represent the ‘safest’ appointment giving his ability to work within a constrained budget and get the most out of his resources, and steady hands are seemingly what Sunderland need at the minute.
If there is to be a manager pried from his contract, then Coventry City manager Robbins could be that man. Again he is a manager familiar with turmoil and financial issues at a club so should fit in well on Wearside, and for those who disagree about Barnsley being the best side to visit the SoL last season I would assume would opt for Robbins’ Coventry. Their attacking display against us that day was impressive to say the least and left us all with a sense of envy as to how we would like to attack teams under Ross. Robbins has experience in earning promotion, albeit from League Two, and has also succeeded at Wembley, twice – you never know when that might come in handy! Throw in his playing experience of the Manchester United culture and there is no doubt Robbins could handle a big job.
Of course, people will have their own ideas and desires for potential candidates, but whoever is given the reigns over the coming days and weeks it is a crucial period for the club. The remit is clear. Win promotion.