Five out of work managers promotion-chasing Sunderland should target
Sunderland are searching for a new manager who can propel them out of League One and up into the Championship.
Whether Sunderland opt for a short-term appointment until the end of the season or a long-term boss, here are five out-of-work options that should be on the club’s radar…
It remains somewhat of a head scratcher that it’s approaching a year since Alex Neil left Preston (March 2021) and he’s yet to step back into the dugout, although he has been helping out David Artell at Crewe in an advisory role.
This is a young and successful manager, 40, who has already managed three clubs in three different leagues, claiming two promotions.
Neil was just 32 when he led Hamilton into the Scottish top-flight in his first season in charge. A stunning win over Celtic followed before he caught the eye of Championship side Norwich. Five months later he propelled the Canaries back into the Premier League. A tough, learning-curve of a season resulted in relegation, and he left the following season.
Only a few months later Neil was appointed at Preston where he spent just shy of four seasons, during which he’d frequently lose his best assets but still managed to get the club pushing for the play-offs.
Neil no doubt sees himself back in the Championship, and rightly so, but the sudden opening at Sunderland - 3rd in League One - is sure to appeal.
What a statement appointment this would be. Probably a bit more far fetched than others on this list considering that he was just tentatively linked with a return to the Premier League (Everton), but you can’t completely rule it out.
Possesses a ton of experience, is a popular and passionate figure in football, and has an EFL promotion on his CV from his time at West Brom, whom he led up to the Premier League at the first time of asking. He was then desperately unluckily to lose his job the following season straight after he recorded a prized point away to Pep Guardiola’s Man City. Football, hey.
The Croatian has since spent a year in the Chinese Super League Beijing Guoan, who he left at the start of the year after a 5th-place finish. Previous achievements include leading Croatia to two European Championships - Euro 2008 at the expense of Steve McClaren’s England - he elevated West Ham to 7th in the Premier League, and has had spells in Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia at Lokomotiv Moscow, Besiktas and Al-Ittihad.
Exciting football? Tick. Promotion pedigree? Tick.
Slavisa Jokanovic has twice moulded together successful Championship teams in leading Watford and Fulham up to the Premier League. He was expected to repeat the feat this season at Sheffield United but was surprisingly sacked in November.
The Blades hadn’t exactly enjoyed a dazzling start to the season but neither did Fulham or Watford under Jokanovic, who will point to the fact he was handed a long-term contract and should have had more time to implement his methods.
After all, when it clicks, this is a manager who is capable of thrilling football. Just ask a Fulham fan. He’s another one who may need a bit of persuading to ‘dip down’ into League One, but he’s currently available and eager to return to the touchline.
“Listen, England is the best place to work to be a player, manager or a fan,” he told Yorkshire Live over the weekend. "We are talking about a huge business. The atmospheres. But a lot of things put together means English football is the best in the world.”
Since Lee Johnson’s exit on Sunday night, Grant McCann has emerged as one of the early frontrunners in the betting - at the time of writing he’s the narrow favourite.
Just a week ago he was manager of Hull, only for the club to be taken over and bring in their new manager: Shota Arveladze.
While there’s no getting away from the fact that McCann had come under pressure at various points of his two-and-a-half-year tenure at the club, the timing of his departure wasn’t one of them.
He’d just conjured up brilliant back-to-back wins over the Championship’s automatic promotion chasing duo of Blackburn and Bournemouth, and nearly upset Everton in the FA Cup. Just six months earlier he’d led Hull to the League One title.
However, such is the workings of football, that McCann now finds himself in the Job Centre, but for how long?
There are plenty of experienced, successful and familiar managers who are currently unemployed including former Sunderland managers Mick McCarthy, Gus Poyet and Sam Allardyce. Paul Cook, Neil Warnock, and Neil Lennon have also been thrown into the conversation too. Even Roy Keane is being touted: will he ever return to management?
However, our fifth pick is slightly left-field: Michael Carrick.
Obviously he doesn’t have the record or experience of the aforementioned band of bosses, but he certainly has the profile.
Carrick, originally from the north-east, has spent the last three years learning the managerial ropes at one of the biggest clubs on the planet, Man Utd, where he’s worked with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. He impressed in his brief stint as caretaker too; overseeing a 2-0 win away to Villarreal which progressed the club into the Champions League knockout stages, followed by a 1-1 draw away to Chelsea, and a 3-2 victory at home to Arsenal.
While we don’t yet know what sort of manager Carrick will be, winning is embedded into his DNA and he could prove to be a breath of fresh air at the Stadium of Light. He’s played under some of the best in the business too, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal, and José Mourinho. At 33/1 he could be well worth a look.