ELLIS Short is taking his time over making a crucial appointment for Sunderland Football Club and, as my colleague Chris Young wrote in yesterday’s Echo, he should be applauded for that.
We don’t know exactly what is in the American’s mind because public pronouncements have been conspicuous by their absence – even his regular column in the club programme has gone AWOL since Paolo Di Canio’s sacking 12 days ago.
But it is safe to assume there is much he is rightly mulling over, and central to his thinking must be this question: not just which manager do I appoint next, but which type?
He has two completely contrasting options in the wake of the recent implosion and which one he opts for will determine Sunderland’s direction for the forseeable future.
On the one hand is The Experienced Manager: Safe Pair of Hands appointment.
This is, in all likelihood, the way Sunderland SHOULD go.
It is the Harry Redknapp-Steve Bruce option – managers with proven track records who a good chance of keeping you up; and if that is not to be, an even greater chance of getting you back up next season.
These are the sort of managers who would be British, who would steady the ship, who would command respect and would use their experience to make important strategic decisions with confidence.
This would almost certainly be a vote for evolution rather than revolution and it would mean looking at prospective candidates like the Alan Curbishley, Tony Pulis, Alex McLeish, Neil Warnock and Glenn Hoddle-type characters of the footballing world.
Deeply unsexy it has to be said, but possibly the safest way to make solid progress and undo the fall-out of the Di Canio era.
Given the precariousness of Sunderland’s situation, there’s an almost overwhelming case for arguing that this is no time for a novice; a proven Premier League manager would surely be an asset.
However, Short’s difficulty in that respect might be that Sunderland have painted themselves into a corner in terms of their management structure, with the club backing the Roberto De Fanti, director of football, and Valentin Angeloni, chief scout, model.
That leaves option two: The Untried Premier League boss with the plausible CV.
Sticking with the current system means Sunderland may feel forced to look for a tracksuit boss fo fit into it, whose specific role as head coach is that of squad training, team selection and tactics, leaving many of the other managerial duties associated with the job to others.
Into this category come the likes of bookies favourite Gus Poyet and Rene Meulensteen, but they are the riskier, if bolder, appointments in light of the disastrous Di Canio experiment – like Di Canio, neither has any experience of managing in the Premier League.
And it shouldn’t be forgotten that the jury is out on the successful viability of Short’s new management structure.
We may be about to find the whole director of football system proves fatally flawed on Wearside, by which time a second head coach will have been tried, found wanting, and Sunderland can mull over their mistakes in the Championship.
On the other hand, of course, it might be Short was on the right track with his new system but simply chose the wrong head coach – maybe a Poyet or Meulensteen would succeed perfectly where Di Canio failed?
There are arguably compromise candidates – Kevin Ball, Gianfranco Zola and Stuart Pearce for example – have a foot in both camps, tracksuit bosses but also with a modicum of top-flight experience.
That sliver of an alternative, though, only makes the choice even more complex and difficult.
And it is no surprise that Short is taking his time over sifting through the options, as he prepares to make a decision which could affect the fate of Sunderland Football Club for not just this season, but potentially many more to come.