Roy Keane, Grant McCann, Jonathan Woodgate, Neil Warnock: The pros and cons of Sunderland’s next manager contenders

Sunderland have been considering multiple candidates to become their new head coach – with former boss Roy Keane the leading contender to take over from Lee Johnson.
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Black Cats owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus began the search for Johnson’s successor earlier this week following a dramatic transfer deadline day.

On Wednesday evening it emerged that Keane was under consideration to make a sensational return to Wearside.

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Many fans would welcome Keane back with open arms after he guided the club to promotion from the Championship in 2007 – but clearly it would be a bold appointment.

Roy Keane.Roy Keane.
Roy Keane.

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Doncaster, an interim coaching team, which will be led by Mike Dodds, has been put in place, which also includes Michael Proctor, Phil Jevons and David Preece.

As the new head coach search continues, we weigh up some of the pros and cons of the leading contenders:

Roy Keane

This would clearly be a hugely popular appointment and, now it’s become known Keane is a leading candidate, it would be a big disappointment if he didn’t get the job.

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The 50-year-old made an immediate impact when he arrived at the Stadium of Light last time, and his no-nonsense personality could be just what’s needed in the short term as Sunderland aim to, finally, win promotion from League One this season.

Keane has spoken about wanting to return to management but - while he has worked as a coach at Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and with the Republic of Ireland - his last manager’s job was at Ipswich in 2011.

While Keane has been working as a pundit for Sky Sports and ITV, it’s unclear how closely he has been following Sunderland in League One this season.

If Sunderland do appoint the former Manchester United midfielder, it will be interesting to see who comes in as part of his backroom team to work with a young group of players.

Grant McCann

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A manager who has recently worked in League One and won promotion from the third tier last season with Hull.

McCann, 41, would probably fit in with the head coach model Sunderland have in place and could be seen as a long-term appointment who could lead the team in the Championship or - in the worst case scenario - League One next season.

He is known to be one of the leading candidates who is under serious consideration.

Still, does McCann represent a significant upgrade on Johnson? And would he be able to get more from this group of players in the short term?

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Plus, following talk that Keane is in the running for the job, it would be hard for another appointment to provide the same lift among Sunderland’s fanbase.

Neil Warnock

The former Middlesbrough and Sheffield United boss has previously spoken about his big regret when he didn’t take the Sunderland job before the 1992 FA Cup final.

It’s understood Warnock would be interested in the job after leaving Boro in November.

When it comes to getting teams up, none have a better record than the 73-year-old who has won a record eight promotions in the English game.

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Warnock is an excellent motivator and is renowned for giving teams an immediate boost – which is what Sunderland need to win promotion.

Yet, while he encourages his teams to play in the right areas, Warnock won’t be telling players to regularly pass out from the back, which was a big part of the club’s new philosophy under Johnson.

Given his age, it would very much be a short-term appointment to try and give Sunderland the lift they need at this stage of the season.

Jonathan Woodgate

A surprising name which has been linked with the vacant role.

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Woodgate is out of work after leading Bournemouth to the Championship play-offs last season and is regarded as a promising young coach.

His first managerial job at hometown club Middlesbrough didn’t work out, and the 42-year-old has admitted he didn’t have enough experience in his backroom team to support him at the Riverside.

Woodgate is good friends with Jermain Defoe, and reports have suggested the latter could be offered a coaching role alongside his former Tottenham team-mate.

But, while Woodgate gave Bournemouth a lift last season, this doesn’t seem to be the right fit for him.

Mick McCarthy

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Another former Black Cats boss who is out of work after leaving Cardiff in October.

Like Keane, McCarthy has been successful on Wearside, after leading the club to promotion from the Championship in 2005 with 94 points.

The 62-year-old is said to be keen on returning to the Stadium of Light, and has shown he can yield an immediate reaction after going into a new club.

But, while McCarthy will argue he will play to his players’ strengths, he is also viewed as a pragmatic manager who will want to alter the team’s style of play.

Neil Lennon

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The former midfielder has experience managing at a high level following his time at Celtic, where he won three SPL championships and two Scottish cups during his first stint in charge.

Lennon also guided Celtic to the Champions League group stages on two separate occasions and reached the knockout stages once.

The 50-year-old has managed in England at Bolton Wanderers, though the club’s off-field issues overshadowed his tenure in the North West.

Lennon’s second spell at Celtic didn’t end well, though, as he departed last year with the club 18 points behind rivals Rangers in the SPL title race.

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