Sunderland manager latest: Peter Reid opens up on Jack Ross, Paul Cook and Kevin Phillips
Former Sunderland manager Peter Reid thinks Jack Ross was unlucky to be sacked by the Black Cats earlier this week – but still believes the club are well placed to win promotion from League One.
Reid, who guided Sunderland to two seventh-place finishes in the Premier League, was back in the North East on Thursday as he was presented with a Legend Award by the North East Football Writers’ Association, when he was asked about the situation on Wearside.
Sunderland’s hierarchy made the decision to sack Ross after 18 months at the Stadium of Light, and Reid, who spent seven and a half years at the club between 1995 and 2002, believes it was a harsh call.
One of the managers who has been linked with the vacancy is Wigan boss Paul Cook, a man who Reid knows well after working as part of the Latics’ backroom staff for the last two years.
And, according to Reid, Cook, who is under contract at the DW Stadium until 2022, is happy in his current role.
“That’s a fact of life,” said Reid when asked about reports linking Cook with the Sunderland job. “I know he’s happy with Wigan, well he was this morning, I haven’t spoken to him since.”
After reaching the play-off final last season and losing just of his opening 11 league games this term, many will have sympathy for Ross, who complemented the club following his departure from the Stadium of Light.
Even so, Reid admits that too many draws eventually cost the Scot and says the club need to act fast to find a successor.
“I thought Jack was a little bit unlucky if I’m honest,” added Reid. “They were sixth place, they drew a lot of games but I thought it was a bit too early to pull the trigger so to speak, but it’s happened.
“Now they need to get a manager in, I think they have the players to get out of this league and that’s the priority.
“He had a season and a bit, got them into the play-offs and was sixth in the league, if that’s not unlucky I don’t know what is but a decision has been made.”
Another name in the frame to replace Ross is that of former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips, who has openly admitted he wants the job.
Following coaching roles at Leicester, Derby and Stoke, some may question if Phillips, 46, is the right fit for the Black Cats due to his lack of managerial experience.
Reid, though, still believes Sunderland could appoint a younger manager.
“He’s coached at clubs, he’s done well with that coaching,” replied Reid when asked about Phillips. “I’ve been asked do they need someone with experience. My first job was as a player manager at Man City, I did all right there.
“Experience is a funny thing because I do think experienced mangers are really good. There are some good young managers out there, though, Chris Wilder is a young manager, kicked on. You need a chance to show what you’ve got.”
So how does Reid, 17 years after leaving the club, reflect on his time at Sunderland? With fond memories or regret that things have deteriorated since.
“Listen, I want them to do better than seventh in the Premier League,” said Reid when reflecting on his time at the club.” There have been some excellent managers who haven’t managed to do that and that tells you how hard it is.
“When I first got to Sunderland it was at Roker Park with Charlie Hurley, I was fourth from bottom of the Championship, the old first division, and when I left I was fourth from bottom of the Premier League, nine games in, new stadium, new training ground so I left in good shape.
“Do I wish it had kicked-on, I certainly do.”
There has also been talk of new ownership or investment on Wearside in recent months, yet Reid is more concerned about matters on the pitch.
He believes Sunderland’s squad is more than capable of winning promotion from League One this and knows what the club can become if the next manager gets it right.
“It’s difficult when you talk about owners because you don’t know what is going on with that side of the club,” said Reid.
“The thing I would concentrate on is getting a new manager in and getting them players playing and winning football matches.
“I know that sounds easy but it’s a fact of life, it’s not rocket science. Are there players there to get out of that league? Yeah.”
Reid, though, acknowledges the expectations which come when playing or managing a club the size Sunderland, as well as the constant pressures.
“When I got the job, I said I took it because I played at Roker Park and there were 50,000 people there,” added Reid. “It’s a massive football club, where they are at the moment isn’t good enough for Sunderland.
“With that comes a pressure though because if you’re not winning after 20 minutes you can hear.
“You need players who have mental strength and I’m not going on about going around kicking people or shutting people down because that’s a given.
“That’s part of playing for a big club and Sunderland is a big club.”