The state of play at Sunderland ahead of a pivotal few days in manager hunt

Sunderland are facing a pivotal few days as they look to appoint a permanent successor to Jack Ross.

Saturday, 12th October 2019, 6:00 am
Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald has a huge decision to make over the coming days

Supporters are also hoping for positive news on potential investment from MSD Partners.

We run you through the current state of player after an exhausting week on Wearside...

THE MANAGER HUNT

With talks over investment continuing, the search for a new manager has begun at pace.

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Having made the decision that a change was needed to secure a quick upturn in results, it goes without saying that time is of the essence.

The club has been in the less than ideal situation of asking James Fowler to continue leading training, despite his close friend being sacked earlier in the week.

The 3-2 leasing.com trophy win showed that he will do it with the utmost professionalism, but is clearly far from ideal in the run up to an important league clash with Wycombe Wanderers.

Sunderland identified a number of potential targets for the vacancy, placing a clear premium on experience at League One level.

The logic is that to make an impact at this stage of the season, a knowledge of the division and the player pool is required.

That looks to have ruled out two early favourites with the bookmakers in Roy Keane and Kevin Phillips.

Keane is believed to be keen to enter management again but has not done so since leaving Ipswich Town in 2011. He has never managed in the third tier.

Phillips now has extensive coaching experience but is yet to manage in his own right.

He has thrown his hand into the ring, though, speaking at the North East FWA special tribute night in honour of former boss Peter Reid.

“We have reached out,” Phillips said.

“I’m not going to divulge whether they got back to me or not. But I certainly put my hat in the ring, let’s put it that way and we’ll just see what happens in the next 24-48 hours.”

He promised to play attacking football and talked up his man management skills.

The likeliest candidates nevertheless remain those with experience at this level.

Mark Robins was one of those, but turned down the opportunity to speak to the Black Cats and insists his focus is on getting into the Championship with Coventry City.

Phil Parkinson is an obvious contender, current unavailable after leaving Bolton Wanderers. The long takeover saga there eventually ground him down but his record at this level stands up to anyone.

Paul Cook is much admired, boasting a similarly impressive record and with the added benefit of enjoying success at this level with Will Grigg and Max Power.

Whether he is open to the idea remains to be seen, with Peter Reid, who knows him well, suggesting that he is happy at the DW Stadium.

Gareth Ainsworth has overseen Wycombe’s impressive rise in recent and some canny summer recruitment has seen him transform their attacking threat this season.

He is a strong contender, though Millwall have been linked with a move for a manager who has turned down interest from Barnsley, Notts County and Lincoln City in recent years.

Having pipped Sunderland to promotion last season, Daniel Stendel is also an option.

Nigel Pearson will be conisdered and has close links with Phillips.

The pressure will be on whoever lands the job, with the clear aim of delivering promotion come the end of the season already clearly laid out.

Speaking to the Telegraph on Friday, Charlie Methven said: “Some people felt we removed Ross too soon, others think we took too long, we will only know whether it was the right decision in the fulness of time, but our sole aim is to get promoted this season. We are currently working through a fairly conventional process of identifying the right person to get the team out of League One.”

THE TAKEOVER

Methven also addressed the potential investment from MSD Partners in the interview.

“There have been a lot of rumours and things said that are simply not true” said Methven.

“The talks to attract investors we have never said it is a takeover – remains ongoing. Those discussions have been going on for some time but we must stress, this is about planning for the future in the Championship, but we need to get promoted first. We need to get out of League One for the next part of the project to begin.

“Even if the new money came in now, we wouldn’t be able to do much with it in League One because of Financial Fairplay rules, but we have always said, we want to plan ahead. There is no great urgency, but I understand some people are frustrated by that. But we cannot force people to part with their money and, as things stand, they may or may not be investing in the club.”

This came after Stewart Donald told supporters there would be an update on the proposed deal at the weekend, in response to an article in The Sun that claimed the deal has collapsed.

A statement released on Friday night said: “The Board has consistently stated its desire to seek additional investment to enable the club to be competitive in whichever league it finds itself in. In League One, this (additional investment) is not a necessity, so it is a matter of looking to future requirements, if and when promotion is achieved.

“Discussions have been ongoing for some time, and continue to be so, but until those talks have concluded one way or the other the club cannot give further comment, owing to confidentiality agreements.

“Whilst we understand the desire of supporters to know how the process is developing, we would ask, please, for some patience. We will provide an update as soon as we are able to. In the meantime, please do not attach undue credence to speculation and theories from various sources, as they are unsubstantiated.

“Across all areas of the club we continue to operate and progress as usual. The business of the club is in good working order, as we look forward to an exciting few months on the pitch, including crucial League One matches and a last 16 League Cup tie against Oxford United.”

So it safe to surmise that for the time being, Donald will be driving forward both the club and the manager search.

The long term uncertainty over the club’s boardroom structure looks set to continue.