Sunderland wanted Tony Mowbray after Lee Johnson was sacked plus Roy Keane information

Graeme Acheson, CEO and co-founder of sports data experts Sports4Cast, has explained how his company have helped Sunderland during their most recent managerial changes.

Lee Johnson was sacked as Sunderland’s head coach last December with the Black Cats having just been thrashed by Bolton Wanderers in League One.

Johnson’s replacement seemed to take a while to appoint, with the club entering into a flirtation with former manager and household name Roy Keane before opting for Alex Neil.

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Neil guided Sunderland to the Championship but departed the club for Stoke City in a shock move. Neil was replaced swiftly by Tony Mowbray with Acheson offering insight behind the process regarding both Keane and Neil managerial sagas

Tony Mowbray

“Tony Mowbray had come out top with the model last time but he wasn’t available,” Acheson says of their analysis post-Johnson to the i.

“When Lee Johnson left we were helping them sort the wheat from the chaff, basically,” Acheson says of its role. “They had a huge shortlist of managers they were looking at and we prepared a document with all of their profiles. Then they wanted a deeper dive into some of the candidates.

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“We looked at what happened at a club six months before they joined and then six months after they joined – so you got a picture of the true difference they made to see whether it was just a case of inheriting a good squad or they had influenced things.

“They got down to a final shortlist and I don’t think Alex Neil was the original choice. I think they were going for Roy Keane but he was not the data choice, put it that way!

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“It was interesting to be part of it and see how decisions are made. Our part is very data-driven, but obviously there’s a lot of human biases involved as well. Personally, I don’t think Roy Keane would have been a good fit for the club but he was obviously very popular with the fans.

"And in fairness to the club, you want to make a decision that’s popular.

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“Alex Neil was the data pick. He’s got a very good play-off record which the data was suggesting would be useful because that was where the club was heading.”