Phil Smith: Sunderland's toxic reputation costs them as McInnes can't shake his doubts about the job

McInnes will be staying at Aberdeen
McInnes will be staying at Aberdeen
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Aberdeen seemed despondent when they granted Sunderland permission to speak to Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty yesterday.

It didn't last long.

By Thursday morning, they had grown a little more hopeful, if not confident, that McInnes might decide to stay after all.

Right from the beginning of the process, McInnes had seemed keen to take the job. He also, however, had a number of reservations about the transfer budget and uncertainty around the club. Those close to the 45-year-old were at pains to point out at every opportunity that this would not be as straightforward as people would assume.

It should have been.

Even despite relegation, Sunderland should have been able to offer one of the biggest budgets in the Championship. Outstanding facilities, a training ground that blew away Sam Allardyce and should have been a tantalising prospect for McInnes, a manager known for his eye for detail and his desire for flawless preparation.

An opportunity to rebuild a club boasting a 40,000 plus crowd, the opportunity to make a name for himself south of the border at one of the country's most historic clubs.

So why didn't he take it?

Aberdeen may well have offered a good budget and the opportunity to continue his work in a stable environment, but that on its own would not have been enough.

Quite simply, Sunderland's toxic reputation has cost them dear. Just as it has made it difficult for them to attract players in recent windows, now it has cost them a managerial target.

Recommended by Walter Smith McInnes may well have been, but he was also warned off the job by many in the game. Sunderland is seen simply not worth taking a risk on at the moment. Whether that is true or not is besides the point. The impact it is having is very real.

Sunderland have insisted throughout the process that there are a number of names in the frame for the job, that their eggs are not all in one basket and no one should assume who would end up with the job.

They will have to move quickly now to prove that is the case or they will find themselves facing a ferocious backlash from a shocked and angered fan base.

Having initially been underwhelmed by the names in the frame, most Sunderland fans had considered McInnes, his track record, his style of play, and come round to the idea. There was even a cautious optimism, a desire to begin building drawing a line under the acrimonious season passed and look to the future with a united front.

Now, fans have to adjust to the reality that a target they were initially unsure about does not want to make the switch to Wearside.

It is incredibly rare for a club to approach another club regarding a manager and then see the move fall through. The Black Cats should have known about McInnes' doubts.

The Aberdeen boss himself has played a blinder. If his profile south of the border was not great it is through the roof now, his stock at Aberdeen even greater.

For Sunderland, it is difficult to know where this goes next.

Suggestions hang that the potential change of ownership was part of the reason why McInnes has pulled out of the club. For many Black Cats, that prospect of change will be one of the only things to hang on to after this latest setback.