ROLL UP, roll up to have your say on who SHOULDN’T be the next Sunderland manager.
Over the last 10 days, a long line has formed.
Supporters disillusioned by the search for a fourth manager in less than two years have barely caught their breath before declaring who can’t be trusted with the reins.
The reasons against various candidates have spewed forth:
Firm favourite Gus Poyet – a poisonous end to his time at Brighton.
Ex-Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen – no experience of English management.
Tony Pulis – long balls and long afternoons.
Caretaker boss Kevin Ball – mustn’t tar a club legend, with no front-line managerial experience.
Steve McClaren – don’t be schtupid.
But while the masses have declared an interest over who they don’t want to see in the Stadium of Light dug-out, precious few have expressed a firm view over who they DO want in charge.
Anyone who does dare to put their head above the parapet usually caveats that support with “I would accept him” or “wouldn’t mind if he was given the job”.
There is no obvious contender to take over.
In November 2011, Martin O’Neill swept into town with a tidal wave of goodwill and near unanimous applause for his appointment.
No-one available in the current job market holds such esteem.
It’s a fierce debate for supporters, but even more of a puzzle for Sunderland’s board.
The seeds of a contingency plan for Di Canio’s sacking were beginning to be made at the Stadium of Light, but the club were clearly taken aback by the suddenness of the rebellion against the Italian which forced them to pull the trigger.
Rather than immediately plump for the obviously eager Poyet, Ellis Short has taken the most prudent route available – taking a breath and doing some homework.
Some fans have become twitchy over the last few days at the delay over naming a new head coach, particularly after Sunderland succumbed to yet another defeat last weekend.
But Short is right on the money to take his time, providing the search doesn’t rumble on for several more weeks.
The American can be criticised for sacking O’Neill. He can be criticised for hiring Di Canio.
But he couldn’t rush into what will arguably be the most important appointment of his reign, and he hasn’t.
Sunderland’s board have to weigh up the pros and cons which apply to each candidate, do their homework and come up with a solution which they universally back.
If they decide to appoint someone from outside the club, they have to be in it for the long haul.
The instability of the managerial merry-go-round has prompted this chaotic situation.
Sunderland now need a manager they can stick with for a couple of years – even if the unthinkable happens and they fall into the chasm of the Championship.
That’s what makes it such a vital decision and why it couldn’t be rushed.
There was no point making a knee-jerk appointment either given the nature of the fixture list.
Why throw a new manager into back-to-back games against Liverpool and Manchester United, particularly with an international break to come?
Far better to make Ball the sacrificial lamb and give the former Sunderland skipper an extended job audition with players who have been self-motivated after being freed from Di Canio’s shackles.
It is the long-term motives of those players which is arguably the biggest source of criticism for supporters at the moment.
From Joe Public’s stance, players who had struggled to break clear of the relegation scrap for two years – other than a three-month spell under O’Neill – rebelled against Sgt Major Di Canio for daring to rule over them with an iron fist.
It’s an image which will be hard to shake unless results justify the revolution against the man who promised a revolution.
Noises about the players preferring a British manager and public support for Ball has caused further unease on the terraces.
But it is understood that the views from the dressing room won’t begin to come into Short’s thinking.
If Short wants Poyet, Ball, Pulis or whoever, then that’s who he will appoint.
To silence the doubters though, Sunderland’s players must realise what is on the line.
Should the Black Cats be relegated, they will suffer like everyone else.
Yes, a fortunate two or three will be cherry-picked by those preying on the carcass of a relegated side.
But almost half of the squad are either out of contract next summer or only at Sunderland on loan, and they face uncertain futures.
And of those still remaining, they will face a 40 per cent wage cut if they are plying their trade in the Championship.
Supporters remain wary of “player-power” though, as they do by the manager hunt itself.
The whole club is desperate for some unity and direction to heal this fractious atmosphere.
If the chosen man can manage that, then he will certainly be worth the wait.