Five big challenges for Sam Allardyce in his first week in charge of Sunderland

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce
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Sam Allardyce sat down at his desk at the Academy of Light for the first time today with one obvious and all-consuming task – to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.

But what immediate issues will face Allardyce during his first week at the helm?

Here are five concerns which will loom large:

1. New assistant manager

Allardyce confirmed yesterday that he was only looking to bring in one fresh face to the backroom team, but it will be a key appointment – his new number two.

Neil McDonald and Phil Brown – previously Allardyce’s assistants at West Ham and Bolton respectively – have both been linked with the role, yet they are now managing themselves in League One, at Blackpool and Southend respectively.

Ex-Sunderland boss Peter Reid is another option, is available and is good friends with Allardyce. They even briefly worked together at the Stadium of Light in the late 1990s.

Reid, perhaps, would be reluctant to step into the assistant role at the club where he enjoyed such success during his seven-year tenure, yet he clearly would not lack either experience or commitment to the cause.

2. New signings

Sunderland made eight signings during the summer, but, after heavy speculation linking the Black Cats with free agents Kevin Nolan and Carlton Cole, could there be more arrivals before January?

Ex-Newcastle skipper Nolan has been training with Leyton Orient and had been keen to remain in London, regardless of his links with the Magpies, while Cole has seen a potential move to Celtic drag on. But Allardyce knows the pair well from his last job at West Ham, while Nolan has been a dressing room lieutenant of the ex-Sunderland defender at Bolton, Newcastle and again at Upton Park.

3. Injuries and suspensions

Allardyce will be forced to change the side which performed so well against West Ham for his first match in charge at West Brom this weekend.

Sebastian Coates and Jeremain Lens are missing through suspension, while there are injury doubts over Yann M’Vila – who limped off against the Hammers – and Younes Kaboul, who missed the game altogether.

If Kaboul remains sidelined with a knee problem, then Allardyce will have little choice than to restore the veteran defensive pair of John O’Shea and Wes Brown, despite the latter not featuring whatsoever this season.

4. Limited preparation time

Only around half of Allardyce’s squad were present at the Academy of Light today for his first day in charge, with 11 away on international duty.

Some, the likes of John O’Shea, Steven Fletcher and Costel Pantilimon, will return with plenty of time to spare before the weekend after their international commitments concluded last night.

But for the likes of on-loan Tottenham right-back DeAndre Yedlin, part of the USA squad who face Costa Rica late tomorrow night, he will only have a maximum of two training sessions with his new manager.

5. Solutions in the Under-21 squad

Dick Advocaat never seemed convinced that a relegation battle was the place to blood youngsters, despite the promising signs from Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch.

Those rookies will sense an opportunity under Allardyce’s fresh eyes and the new boss has an instant chance to take a look at the club’s hopefuls.

The U21s face Borussia Monchengladbach at the Stadium of Light tonight, albeit Watmore, plus Charis Mavrias, will miss the game due to international commitments.