Sunderland is not unmanageable but they must be more creative to find the right fit for the job
Sunderland are many things at the moment but unmanageable is certainly not one of them.
Granted, the task awaiting whoever the role passes to next is challenging in the extreme.
A squad with cripplingly low confidence, stuck in a cycle of self-inflicted defeat that has proved impossible to break. Money will not provide the salvation in January as it did for Sam Allardyce almost two years ago. To turn Sunderland around in the short and long term will be no mean feat, and the longer Ellis Short remains owner and investment is not forthcoming, the harder it will get.
Impossible, however, it is not.
Sunderland’s problems are myriad and cannot be laid all that the manager’s door, but it cannot be right that no one out there can make a difference.
For all the home ills, it will not take much to build a formidable atmosphere on Wearside. There is pace in Duncan Watmore, creativity in Aiden McGeady, ice cold composure and finishing in Lewis Grabban. Many problems, notably in defence and in goal, but none that should be entirely insurmountable.
Back-to-back relegations is right now possible and perhaps even probable, but it is anything but inevitable.
The question really is whether Martin Bain, and by extension Ellis Short, can find those capable of stemming the decline.
It is hard to challenge the assertion that their work so far offered precious little ground for optimism.
Bain has taken counsel from the likes of Walter Smith in the past and it seems clear that the networks and relationships built during his time at Rangers remain a key part of his decision-making process.
Derek McInnes was the preferred candidate in the summer and we will never know he would have fared, but the appointment of Simon Grayson followed the same logic as that of Moyes a year previous, that experience would bring stability.
That approach was mirrored in the transfer market, focusing on players who had plied their trade at this level and would ‘get’ the club. There have been some successes, and it is only fair to say Lewis Grabban could be the signing of the summer, but ultimately it has not been enough.
Question marks over the club’s scouting and recruitment networks, with both players and managers, remain as valid now as they ever have been. A pivot towards a more corporate, data-driven approach under Simon Wilson bore little fruit and it is not clear what has been left in its place.
The swift rise of Billy McKinlay will have alarm bells ringing that it is the same old, same old, even if we do not know as of yet how the former assistant to David Moyes features in the bigger and longer-term picture. The early suggestions are that new blood will arrive in the international break.
A change of ownership and fresh direction, alongside, of course, fresh investment, is the best way for Sunderland to clear the fog but that does not mean they are doomed until then.
Getting the right manager will only be a small part of a bigger picture that needs improving, yet at the same time it is the only place to realistically begin. For the fans and the club, failure is simply not an option.
Turning to the same network will merely push supporters further away, and who could blame them?