Who’d Be Next?

The underwhelming start to the season has predictably seen the calls for Jack Ross’ head growing. With the need for promotion even more urgent, it’s likely that if things aren’t going well, things may come to a head at some point. However, as disappointing as it may seem to some, he’s unlikely to be out of a job anytime soon.

The transfer window remains open, and it makes more sense to finalise the squad before making drastic decisions about the manager’s future. Anyone who came in now could only do so much when our only recognised left back is Denver Hume.

Let’s imagine though, in a month’s time, Jack Ross is dismissed after a 1-1 draw at Bolton, setting a record for most consecutive games drawn by the same scoreline in the process. After news filters through, the betting companies open their ‘Next Permanent Sunderland Manager’ markets, and a list of names appears.

There are the ones there for old times’ sake, the Peter Reids and Kevin Phillips’, who you can dismiss out of hand. The types who are linked not because of recent or relevant experience, but because they ‘know the club’ by virtue of having spent time here twenty years ago. Whilst the jury is out on how much they would know Sunderland in 2019, personally, I think too much emphasis can be placed on “knowing a club”. As long as we’re winning, I don’t think many people are particularly bothered. After all, we did sell a player a few weeks ago who’d been here since he was a boy and knew the club pretty well, whose departure was celebrated by certain sections of our fan base.

For similar reasons, you can dismiss Roy Keane too, who’d probably be on that list, being an ex-Sunderland manager currently out of work. The various social media posts which accompanied his recent birthday revealed a strong desire from certain fans to bring him back to the club. Aside from the fact he hasn’t managed since 2011, but been an assistant, it’s hard to imagine Keane’s standoffish approach going down well in the modern era.

Like it or not, in 2019 player power is at an all-time high and mental health is a huge topic. I struggle to believe that the man who once delivered a team talk in which he told the players ‘Basically you’re shit. Try and enjoy the game. You’re probably going to get beat. But just enjoy being shit’ would do well nowadays. Even by the standards of 2006, Keane got away with a lot because he was winning matches. It was easy for him to justify leaving three players behind when they were a little late for the coach to Barnsley when we won 2-0.

Aside from these, it’s hard to say who would be available were Ross to leave. I’m not sure who the names are at this level, the classic League One managers who do a job at this level. There’s always the prospect of convincing someone to drop down a league, like Doncaster have managed with Darren Moore. Gary Rowett or Chris Hughton would be likely candidates in this respect, but there would be a big question mark as to whether anyone would be willing to step down levels.

The fact is though, consistency is the key to promotion. Out the ten teams promoted in the EFL last year, only Aston Villa and Luton changed their manager mid-season, and only Villa willingly. The season before, none of them did. Whilst I’m not advocating keeping Jack Ross come what may just for this sake, the whole point of changing manager is to improve things. And judging by the alternatives, or lack thereof, for now I’ll happily stick by him.