Chris Young: Allardyce’s successor faces challenging situation with paper-thin squad

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If Lynn Allardyce had got her way, then hubby Sam would have spent last season on a Spanish sun-lounger.

The itch of returning to the dug-out and the adrenaline rush of overseeing a top flight victory was what drew Sam Allardyce back to Premier League football, just five months after he had been somewhat rudely relieved of his duties within seconds of the final whistle sounding on West Ham’s season.

It wasn’t Sunderland’s healthy state which attracted him. Far from it. The Black Cats were in an all-too-familiar shambolic state.

Sunderland had managed just three points from their first eight games, boasted a squad which the departed Dick Advocaat labelled as “just not good enough” and most worryingly of all, were fielding players who knew themselves that they weren’t sufficiently fit.

Yes, Sunderland were as ever being backed by phenomenal numbers, but there was a general feeling amongst supporters that this was the year when the cats had used up all of their lives.

For all Allardyce’s record of keeping clubs in the Premier League, it felt like Sunderland were sinking.

When the club ultimately bucked expectations once more, Allardyce tellingly commented that he wasn’t prepared to go through that again. With a limited transfer budget at his disposal this summer, it duly prompted some tension behind the scenes.

The absence of any signings, coupled with just three weeks to prepare for the new season, leaves Allardyce’s successor – which will almost certainly be David Moyes – facing what is undoubtedly a challenging situation.

But if it is to be Moyes, then he inherits a club that is in a much more positive state, despite the FA’s snail-paced recruitment march of the last three weeks utterly bursting the bubble of optimism over Wearside and leaving Ellis Short and new chief executive Martin Bain the task of appointing a seventh manager in less than five years.

Yes, this Sunderland squad is paper-thin and imminent transfers are a must for Moyes.

As much as Short doesn’t want to dip into his pocket to fund a club that has haemorrhaged money over recent seasons, he might have to.

The absence of the rested Jan Kirchhoff along with Euro 2016 participants John O’Shea and Seb Larsson last night left distinctly unconvincing trialist Charles N’Zogbia as the only player over the age of 22 on the bench.

It’s frightening that with just three players missing, Sunderland’s squad could be so stretched, albeit substitutes Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford both made a handful of Premier League starts last season.

But after their nine-day training camp in Austria, Sunderland’s first-teamers unquestionably showed that they are fighting fit – a stark contrast to the jet-lagged, sluggish reactions witnessed in pre-season last year.

That’s Allardyce’s legacy. Unlike his predecessor, Moyes will take over a side where everyone knows their job and everyone is in the best possible condition.

League Two Hartlepool simply couldn’t live with Sunderland’s energy, movement and one-touch passing in a rampant first half where the visitors could easily have doubled their three-goal tally.

Jermain Defoe just picked up where he left off from last season; spinning away from Pools centre-half Toto Nsiala within the first seven minutes, before gliding through on goal and tucking the ball calmly beyond ex-Sunderland stopper Trevor Carson.

Fabio Borini hit the bar from a Defoe pass, before the England striker struck the woodwork himself - sending a right-foot shot against the post after a wicked dummy had fooled Nsiala.

Fortunately, Wahbi Khazri was on hand to sweep the ball home from eight yards, with Carson left stranded on the deck.

Defoe didn’t have to wait long for his second, as he deliciously lifted the ball over Carson from the edge of the area, seconds after the Northern Ireland international had denied Borini from close range.

Lamine Kone headed against the bar in first half stoppage time, but it was a 45 minutes of real promise - arguably as good as Sunderland have produced in pre-season since the Asia Trophy victory over Spurs, in Hong Kong, three years ago.

All of the front four, encouragingly including Jeremain Lens, just had far too much for Pools, particularly in wide areas where the home full-backs were run ragged.

If those attacking players can continue in that vein, and imposing central defenders Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul persist with their water-tight partnership from the end of last season, then Moyes will have plenty to work with.

But despite Allardyce putting those foundations in place, few supporters will spend a great deal of time mourning him after the uncertainty of the last fortnight has made so many pig-sick of the situation.

It almost comes as a relief that the break-up is nearly over and Sunderland can move on.

Perhaps Allardyce will regret not staying until the final whistle and waving goodbye to nearly 4,000 travelling supporters inside Victoria Park after choosing to spend the second half in the tunnel, rather than watching the club’s youngsters take to the field.

Sunderland just have to hope it’s not an eternal regret that the seeds sown by Allardyce won’t be coming to fruition under his guardianship.

Sunderland first half: Mannone, Jones, Kaboul, Kone, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Lens, Rodwell, Defoe, Borini, Khazri.

Sunderland second half: Pickford, J Robson, Ledger, Beadling, T Robson, E Robson, Honeyman, N’Zogbia, Gooch, Greenwood, Watmore.

Attendance: 6,021 (3,859 away)