Still not the start of ‘Wembley and Bust’, the series in which our contributors will discuss what went so drastically wrong. But Jeremy Robson feels it in his bones that Gus is about to hop on a one-way bus trip. Who would come in to pick up the pieces, rebuild for a different task (gaining promotion as opposed to perpetual relegation avoidance) and please the fans? …
In last week’s Robson Report – “What on earth happens next?” – I declared: “Never in living memory has any of our managers gone from being perceived so positively to become the villain of the piece in no more than a month.”
Gus Poyet clearly senses this feeling among our supporters, and it appears that he realises his particular number is up.
Rather than trying to assuage and reassure our club’s loyal followers that he is here for the long term, some of his comments since Wembley have further fuelled the fires of discontent, as he seeks to apportion blame elsewhere and avoid any personal responsibility for the catastrophic season which, with a handful of games left, he appears to have conceded will end in relegation.
If he doesn’t want to spend any more time with us, that’s fine. Toddle off to Windsor and leave us to it. We won’t be wasting our time on you.
Some of his rhetoric would be bizarre were it not for the fact that he seems hell bent on mysticising the bleeding obvious. There is something seriously wrong at Sunderland. We know that and we don’t need some Johnny come lately from the Home Counties to take off our imagined blinkers.
Our predicament is not the result of a Romany curse on the stadium due to Tom Cowie’s refusal to buy some clothes pegs any more than it can be attributed to poor feng-shui in the boardroom.
Even well before the De Fanti/Di Canio fiasco I recall some statement from the club which maintained that we would be a selling club, concentrating on the development of young players who would then be sold for a profit. The Academy has produced very little, either before or since and it’s time for an overhaul of scouting at grass roots and youth level.
Jordan Henderson left for a big fee and a significant profit was made when Simon Mignolet followed Henderson to Merseyside. If this philosophy is to be followed then you need to be damned well sure that their replacements are of at least equal ability if not higher.
Pete Sixsmith summarised this problem in his latest article so I will not repeat what he has already said so eloquently. Suffice to say that if this policy is indeed part of an implicit business model, then something has to fundamentally change in order for it to work at all. It isn’t working now.
Having said all that, we face some dark uncertain days ahead, at least until we know who is going to be the manager come August and we have some idea of who will stay and who will arrive. The shifting tone of Poyet’s public remarks indicate he will be gone, so who should the next man be? We can’t answer that question without considering what we are facing. A mass of departures due to the return of loanees, players out of contract also heading out the door as well as the line of contracted players demanding a transfer when the whistle goes in the final game at home to Swansea. There are several criteria.
We need a man who
· is capable of stopping the rot, putting a quick end to the downward slide of a relegated club
· commands respect and can get the players behind him at Championship level
· has an eye for players with real potential outside the top divisions and who can step up a grade quickly and effectively
· has been there before
· is respected in the game and has some integrity
There are to my mind three possible candidates, two of whom may be ruled out by events elsewhere between now and the end of the season.
Reading’s manager Nigel Adkins is one such man with a proven record at all levels. Treated harshly by Southampton after taking the helm in the 3rd tier, he led them to back to back promotions and was sacked for his efforts. He has just taken Reading to the play offs in the Championship. The coming weeks of this campaign could either rule him out or indicate that a new challenge elsewhere might be what he needs. For me, he fills all criteria. Against? Simply that he is an unknown quantity in the PL as he was sacked so soon by the Saints.
Chris Hughton, recently sacked by Norwich knows precisely how to stop the rot and restore some pride having done it most effectively at St James’ Park, and achieving promotion quickly for the Canaries. Hughton is a dignified and thoughtful man who would cast a very different shadow to some of his predecessors at the Stadium of Light. It’s questionable whether Hughton has what it takes to cut it in the Premier League but his experience at Norwich shouldn’t count against him. He may not be effective at that level but we need to stabilise the ship and that’s the priority. Against? He didn’t use the money available to him wisely or effectively. Ricky van Wolfswinkel was a poor buy who didn’t adapt to life in England, but his previous knowledge of working with Nathan Redmond has paid huge dividends.
The wildcard is Malky Mackay, another manager sacked in the PL this season should be another candidate, based on his achievement in getting Cardiff into the top flight for the first time in half a century. We may also work on the assumption that any man getting his P45 for falling out with the hilarious Vincent Tan has to be a good bloke. Mackay doesn’t have a record of firefighting as per Messrs Adkins and Hughton but must be worth consideration if Poyet goes. He brought in some good players for little money and built a side that didn’t look like genuine relegation candidates until after he had gone. Against? Like Hughton he spent big money poorly when he had it. The now departed Andreas Cornelius lost them £5m in less than six months.
* Do you agree with Jeremy on who the frontrunners may be? Are you not even convinced Poyet wants to go or has lost Ellis Short’s confidence? Have your say.
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