Sunderland legend Gary Bennett on manager hunt, David Moyes and what the club must do this summer

Former Sunderland captain and legend Gary Bennett.
Former Sunderland captain and legend Gary Bennett.
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Sunderland legend Gary Bennett has urged Martin Bain and Ellis Short to move swiftly in their hunt to replace David Moyes – with the club in need of a big lift.

Moyes resigned within 24-hours of the end of the season, a dismal campaign which saw Sunderland relegated to the Championship.

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes, Garry Monk, Nigel Pearson and Kevin Phillips are among the frontrunners for the job.

And Bennett has urged the club to appoint quickly.

The former captain – who made more than 350 appearances for Sunderland – said: “They could put anyone in but if they don’t understand the supporters, the club or the area then they are going to struggle.

“You need that connection, to know what it is about and what player would fit into a Sunderland model – if they have a model.

“Whoever comes in needs to understand the football club and the area.

“I would urge the club to appoint quickly.

“People keep saying who is the right man? You could put Sir Alex Ferguson in charge but I’d imagine even he would struggle.

“Getting somebody in quickly is important, to understand what the club is all about and hopefully the right people around the manager, which may mean people already at the club, people who can help the manager settle in. You need that connection.

“It is only a short summer, four or five weeks because the season starts quickly so they have to identify quickly which areas need strengthening.”

There has been much debate over which path Sunderland should take in terms of appointing a new boss; an experienced hand to guide the club in their first Championship campaign in a decade or a younger, less experienced manager hungry for the challenge of reviving the Black Cats.

Bennett added: “You can have somebody that is inexperienced as long as they have somebody that is experienced alongside them or vice versa.”

Fellow Cats legend Phillips has been heavily linked, Bennett says bringing in experienced help alongside him would be key if Sunderland chose that option, although his odds have drifted and McInnes remains the frontrunner for the job.

“It is a massive job, isn’t it,” added Bennett.

“If he did, they would have to bring in somebody who is experienced alongside him.”

In terms of the early favourites, Bennett has no preference – the former skipper just wants a manager who can help breathe new life into the club.

“I’ve gone past that stage [of favourites]!

“We have seen it season after season. We have had so-called big-name managers that have struggled.

“There must be a reason why they have struggled, you don’t become a bad manager over night.

“Recruitment this summer is key.

“It is all about which players the club bring in, players that can excite the supporters and give them some form of belief.

“You make four or five big signings to give yourself a chance.

“Everything is flat at the moment, there needs to be a big injection to excite the supporters and recruitment is key for that.

“There are no guarantees Sunderland will come back up next season but one thing you need to make sure you have is a strong team spirit.

“That goes a long, long way and if you don’t have a good changing room you will struggle, it doesn’t matter who you are.

“All successful sides have a strong team unit and strong dressing room.”

There was widespread reports of dressing room unrest in the final weeks of Moyes’ tenure, with the Scot also coming under increasing pressure from supporters.

Moyes met with owner Short and chief executive Bain – who is leading the search for the new manager – in London on Monday morning, the news confirmed at teatime that he had resigned from his post.

That decision didn’t come as a surprise to Bennett.

He added: “I wasn’t surprised by Moyes’ resignation, especially after the last game at Chelsea.

“It needed either the club or the manager to come out and say either he would be the manager next season or he won’t be and then move on quickly.

“They have done that but now they have to bring somebody in as quickly as possible so they can get their feet under the table and to get an understanding of what they need to bring into the football club.

“That is the other problem, whoever comes in what vision do they have? What do they know about Sunderland in terms of where they need strengthening?”

When asked about Moyes’ tenure in charge at the Stadium of Light, Bennett added: “It was disappointing and you can point fingers at Moyes.

“You can also point fingers at the players, the board, the owner but at the end of the day it comes down to management; management of the football club, the finances, the team; all of that didn’t work.

“Leading up to the end of the season, I think everybody had a feeling that there was something wrong with the football club.

“Whether it be the players not wanting to be here or wanting to play for the manager. It was all summed up against Swansea, it was plain for everyone to see and it was well and truly highlighted against Chelsea when you had so many injuries.

“Something, somewhere had broken down.”