Sunderland squad in safe hands with Robbie Stockdale amid manager and takeover uncertainty

Robbie Stockdale, second left, in the dug out with David Moyes, Adrian Tucker and Paul Bracewell at  during a pre-season friendly last year.
Robbie Stockdale, second left, in the dug out with David Moyes, Adrian Tucker and Paul Bracewell at during a pre-season friendly last year.
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“You are like a sponge, soaking things up all the time.”

That’s how Robbie Stockdale describes his approach to the numerous managers he has worked with at the Stadium of Light.

Sam Allardyce was a huge fan of the 37-year-old after he promoted him from then Under-21 coach to first team duties.

Stockdale hasn’t looked back since.

And come Thursday, his face will be the first the squad see when they report back for pre-season training at the Academy of Light, just over five weeks since the final-day hammering at the hands of Chelsea.

A lot has changed since then; David Moyes has resigned, Jordan Pickford has swapped Wearside for Merseyside, Jermain Defoe is Bournemouth-bound while the club prepares for life in the Championship.

Takeover talk and the uncertainty around the manager and owner situation continue to dominate but Stockdale, at least, provides a stable and welcome influence at Sunderland.

Unless there is a dramatic development in the next 48-hours, first team coach Stockdale will lead the initial pre-season programme when players return for tests ahead of a five-day training camp in Austria.

The former Middlesbrough defender-turned-coach is well-liked and respected by the Sunderland players and has been working round the clock preparing the groundwork for those players that return this week.

Allardyce, who often let Stockdale lead the training sessions, described him as “one of the coaches of the future”.

Allardyce’s tactical nous and business in the transfer market was behind Sunderland’s 2015-16 Great Escape but Stockdale’s influence on the training pitch also played a big part.

The former England boss spoke glowingly of Stockdale’s work under him, adding: “Robbie has impressed me as a young, ambitious and talented coach.

“I think Robbie can develop and evolve into a very, very good coach indeed. As a session coach, Robbie has excellent potential. Certainly in my time here, he has mastered that challenge already.”

Working at Sunderland certainly poses a challenge and one Stockdale will look to grasp this week alongside the remaining coaching staff.

With Paul Bracewell having also left, that just leaves first-team coach Stockdale, goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker, and Under-23 boss Elliott Dickman as senior members of the backroom staff.

The pre-season programme had already been established before Moyes walked away but the task of getting the players up-to-speed quickly falls on Stockdale’s shoulders.

Sunderland kick-off their pre-season programme at Bury a week on Friday before a busy run of fixtures against Hibernian, Livingston, St Johnstone, Bradford and Scunthorpe United ahead of the season opener at home to Derby County, now just over a month away.

Stockdale has worked his way through the ranks at Sunderland, with Moyes keeping him in his first team coach role last season, although the Scot was more hands on in training than Allardyce.

Speaking last season, Stockdale said it was “fantastic for his development” to work closely with the experienced managers, adding: “I have been very fortunate, my pathway has been fantastic, coming through the Academy.

“You are like a sponge, soaking things up all the time.”

Come Thursday, that knowledge built up over several years will prove vital when the players return to a club in dire straits.

Uncertainty swirls around the Stadium of Light and a resolution to the manager and takeover talks is critical. There is no more time to waste.

But Stockdale is a safe pair of hands to guide the players through the initial preparations before the new manager – and hopefully a raft of new signings – arrive ahead of a gruelling and demanding 46-game Championship campaign.