Next Sunderland manager: Delay explained, potential candidates and the key criteria - your questions answered

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Sunderland’s search for a new head coach is approaching its fourth month with no signs of an imminent resolution

Sunderland's search for a new head coach continues, and will reach the three-month mark next week.

So what's going on and what do we know about the process at this stage? Here we answer some of the key questions...

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Why didn't Sunderland make an immediate appointment?

There were a few factors. One was to give the hierarchy time to reflect on what had clearly been a flawed appointment, and to weigh up what needed to change in order to minimise the risk of making a similar mistake the next time around.

The other was that one of the key challenges the club had faced in recruiting after Tony Mowbray's dismissal was that many of the preferred candidates were either reluctant to move in the middle of a campaign, or very difficult to extract from their current roles even if they were willing. Waiting until the summer broadened the pool and opened up new avenues for the club. As such, it would be a bit of a surprise if a candidate out of work when Michael Beale departed was to be hired this summer (though of course not impossible, Paul Heckingbottom is thought to have been considered early in the process having just left Bramall Lane when Beale left).

It's also fair to say that the club hierarchy did not envisage as dramatic a drop off in the final months of the campaign under Mike Dodds. Injuries and suspension were clearly a major factor in that but with the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear that Mowbray's work was underestimated.

What are Sunderland actually looking for in a new head coach?

Fundamentally, the criteria has not changed a great deal from when Mowbray left back in December. Though it understandably became a widely-derided term as Sunderland's season dramatically fell away, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus' demand for a 'high-performance culture' remains instructive. In short, the club wants a candidate with an elite coaching background. They will also be expected to have a proven track record in developing young players as for all there is expected to be some Championship experience added to the squad this summer, the focus on youth will not change.

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They will also be expected to have a proven track record in implementing an aggressive, high-pressing playing style - this is particularly crucial given the decline in the team's playing identity under Beale and then in the closing months of the season. Dodds has spoken of how the club wants to find a balance between playing free-flowing football with a strong structure out of possession, a balance not easy to strike. It's still thought that Sunderland will put these criteria above 'tried and tested' Championship options, but time will tell. What will be interesting is to see the extent to which Beale's troubled tenure has shifted Sunderland's view, underlining the importance of strong leadership and communication skills at such a big club.

Where's the process at and how long might it be before a new appointment is made?

Sunderland have run an extensive recruitment process which is now drawing towards its conclusion. An appointment is not at this point thought to be imminent, with the futures of some of those in the frame still being settled and decided. As of yet Sunderland do not feel they've lost anything in terms of preparations for next season by being patient in pursuit of their ideal candidates. There is however a recognition that this could begin to change as time goes on, and a new candidate will need to be in place to make the necessary tweaks for pre-season and to begin feeding into the recruitment process etc. It would be a major surprise if the process ran into next month but these things are hard to predict.

What do we know about who is in the frame?

Sunderland have managed to keep much of their process under wraps, and there are undoubtedly names very much in the frame as of yet not in the public domain. Danny Rohl is known to be hugely admired by the club hierarchy but he has held positive talks over his future with Sheffield Wednesday and would require a huge compensation fee - that means its hard at this stage to see him being the next head coach at the Stadium of Light. Danish coach Bo Svensson, who most recently was in charge of Bundesliga side Mainz, is also said to have been of interest to Sunderland and Heckingbottom was an early contender.

Frontunners with the bookmakers Will Still and Rene Maric have both been very strong contenders in the past, but are not thought to have been strong contenders this time around. As two names on Sunderland's long-term radar you couldn't rule them out at this point but so far it strongly appears that the club's focus has been elsewhere.

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What does it mean for Mike Dodds and the existing coaching staff?

Despite a challenging final few months of the campaign, Sunderland's hierarchy do not want to lose Dodds and have made clear that keeping the existing coaching staff in place is important to retaining some stability and continuity. As such, it would remain a significant departure from the initial plan if any of Dodds, Michael Proctor or Alessandro Barcherini were to depart when a new head coach is appointed. The head coach will have the scope to add to the backroom team with a member of their own staff, as  Alex Neil and Tony Mowbray did with Martin Canning and Mark Venus.

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