Steve Bruce is expected to return to Sunderland for recruits as he looks to assemble his backroom staff at Hull City, writes Graeme Anderson.
And that is likely to see the departures of Reserve team coach Keith Bertschin and Reserve team assistant and trainer Stephen Clemence.
Bruce will also try to link up again with former goalkeeping coach Nigel Spink, who has been at Bristol City since their departure from the Stadium of Light last December.
But his former assistant at Sunderland, Eric Black, currently Steve Kean’s number two at Blackburn Rovers, is not expected to rejoin his former boss. Black sees his immediate future at Ewood Park, where he could easily become manager next season should the controversial Kean not survive.
Bertschin is a popular figure at Sunderland but has a great attachment to Bruce, who gave him his start in coaching at Birmingham City.
When the former Manchester United captain took over at St Andrew’s, he was on the look-out for a Reserve coach and was convinced that his former Norwich City team-mate Bertschin could do well in the role.
Bertschin arrived at Sunderland having followed Bruce from Birmingham to Wigan and is expected to link up with his long-time mentor for a fourth time.
The 56-year-old, who spent a spell at Sunderland as a striker in the 1980s, played a key role in implementing Bruce’s policy at the Stadium of Light in getting rid of long-term second-string players and hastening through young talent – something which undoubtedly benefited the careers of youngsters such as Jordan Henderson, Jack Colback and Martyn Waghorn.
Clemence, son of former England keeper Ray, also owes a huge debt to Bruce. The 34-year-old former midfielder was signed by Bruce at Birmingham and, when his career was prematurely ended by injury, it was the Tynesider who gave him his start in football coaching at Sunderland.
Should, as expected, Bertschin and Clemence swap Wearside for Humberside, Martin O’Neill will need a summer reshuffle of his coaching team. But the Black Cats’ boss is likely to see that as an opportunity rather than a setback.
O’Neill has been able to bring in some of his choice of staff since taking over the reins from Bruce – most notably first-team coach Steve Walford and goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh – but has also continued with many of the personnel he inherited.
And the chance to bring in more staff – who he himself rates and would like to appoint – will only be seen as a chance to implement further changes the Irishman will feel should benefit Sunderland in the future.