Sunderland are searching for a permanent manager after making the decision to part company with Jack Ross last week, with the club sixth in the League One table.
Ross was able to guide Sunderland to two Wembley finals in his first season in charge at the Stadium of Light, but his failure to win promotion and an indifferent start to the new campaign had increased the pressure on him.
Sunderland made the decision to terminate his contract last week and are now in the process of searching for a new manager. If recent reports are to be believed, the club are hoping to make their decision by the end of the week.
The club are understood to have drawn up a shortlist of managers they think are suitable for the role. The likes of Gareth Ainsworth, Paul Cook, Daniel Stendel and Phil Parkinson are all thought to be under consideration.
In the latest FLW Six Pointer, we discuss Sunderland’s search for a new manager in more detail…
First of all, do you think it was the right decision for Sunderland to sack Jack Ross?
“I think so. It might seem a bit harsh, but the reality is that the expectations at Sunderland are much higher than at most other clubs in League One.
“Ross did a good job his first season in charge, but his failure to win promotion from League One last season increased the pressure on him massively. There had been some questionable results at the start of this season too.
“The board obviously feel that Ross is no longer the right man to take the club forward and if they go on to win promotion this season, it’ll obviously turn out to be the right season.
“The club have obviously made the decision during the international break to give them as much time as possible to make sure that they get the appointment right and it’s absolutely vital that they do that, as they need to get out of League One this season.”
What qualities should Sunderland look for in their new manager?
“Sunderland need to win promotion this season, so they need someone with experience and somebody who understands what it takes to achieve success at this level.
“They need somebody who will be able to build on the work that Ross achieved at the Stadium of Light and somebody who knows how to get the best out of the players.
“Daniel Stendel, Paul Cook and Phil Parkinson have all been linked with the job and have all won automatic promotion form League One recently.
“They know exactly what it takes to achieve success at this level and would all be good appointments in my opinion.
“They’ve all got a decent amount of experience in the Championship too, so if Sunderland do go up this season, they’ll know exactly what to expect and will be able to cope with the challenges that come with managing at that level.”
Of all the names who have been linked with the job, who would you like to see take charge at the Stadium of Light?
“Stendel for me. I think he’s a fantastic manager. He did a magnificent job in getting Barnsley promoted from League One last season and it should be remembered that it was his first season in English football too.
“He was able to build an exciting young team and get them playing attractive, attacking football. He’d surely be able to do the same with Sunderland, where he’d have more money to spend on players.
“I know Barnsley have really struggled in the Championship so far this season, but I still think Stendel deserved a bit more time to try and turn things around at Oakwell.
“He’s knows what it takes to achieve success in League One though and should be able to get the best out of the Sunderland players.
“He’s a very likeable character and I think he’s a manager that the Sunderland fans would be able to get behind too.
“I also think Paul Cook would be an ideal choice, but I’m not sure he’d want to leave what he is building at Wigan.”
Kevin Phillips has also expressed an interest in the role, do you think he’d be a good appointment?
“This is an interesting one. I actually think Phillips would be a good appointment for Sunderland, but it would have to be considered a huge gamble given his lack of experience as a manager.
“He’s had coaching roles at a number of different clubs since hanging up his boots five years ago and should be able to get the best out of the players. With that said, Sunderland are expected to win promotion this season, so Phillips would need to make the transition into management pretty seamlessly.
“He’d need to adapt to the challenges that come with managing in such a competitive league and based on the fact that there are more experienced managers available, I think Sunderland might be better of going for somebody else.
“He’s a manager that supporters at the Stadium of Light would be able to get behind though, which could be exactly what the club needs at moment, after many fans had grown tired and frustrated with Ross.”
Sunderland are also said to have held talks with Gareth Ainsworth, do you think he’d be a good appointment?
“I think so. Gareth Ainsworth is a great manager and he’s got plenty of experience at this level. He’s done a fantastic job with Wycombe on a limited budget and I think he’d be able to get the best out of the Sunderland players.
“With that said, the expectations for success are much higher at a club like Sunderland than they are at Wycombe at the moment, so he’d need to learn to cope with the pressure that comes with that.
“He doesn’t really have any experience in the Championship either, so if Sunderland were to win promotion this season, he’d need to learn to adapt to the challenges that come with managing at that level, which could be tough for him.
“I think he’d be a good appointment for Sunderland, but given their long-term ambition is to get back in the Premier League, they might want to appoint a manager with more experience.”
Finally, where do you expect Sunderland to finish this season?
“That’s a bit of a tough one. It’s early days yet and there a quite few teams in League One who have got off to a good start and that will fancy their chances of promotion.
“With that said, with the amount of depth, quality and experience that Sunderland have got in their squad, they should easily be challenging for promotion from League One.
“I think they’ll finish in the top six this season, but whether they get promoted or not depends on who they appoint as manager, which is why the appointment is so crucial – they have to get it right.
“If they do, they’ve got every chance of returning to the Championship.”