Craig Clark: My Top 3 Choices For Next Sunderland Manager

Paolo Bruno

All of the signs point toward Sunderland employing a long term manager in the wake of Martin O'Neill's sacking. Here are the three managers I'd be looking at to take us forward.

Sunderland's mantra tends to be safety first when it comes to employing managers. We've seen some uninspiring choices over the years and with supposed safe pair of hands O'Neill now dispensed with, it's time to look at someone a bit different. At the time of writing, Paolo Di Canio is reportedly on his way to Wearside for talks and he would certainly represent a maverick choice. Due to the timing of the club's decision to remove O'Neill, it does tie our hands somewhat, but here's who I'd be looking at to take us forward.

1. Zdeněk Zeman

You want entertainment and attacking football, then there is no greater proponent of it than Zeman. Zemanlandia, as his style of football has been labelled, really is something to behold. When his teams kick off, all of the outfield players line up along the half way line, bar two, who sit on the edge of the centre circle before charging forward. Zeman was recently relieved of his position at Roma, who were 8th at the time of his sacking. Perhaps they should have been doing better with the squad at his disposal but they were a joy to watch. Employing him with just seven games to go in the midst of a relegation battle might seem like an insane idea given the nature of his tactics but he is available and it beats a continuation of the increasingly timid football we've witnessed under O'Neill. A more attacking outlook might just be what the likes of Johnson and Sessegnon need. Southampton certainly look to be trying to attack their way to safety. Short's biggest gamble was getting rid of O'Neill so late in the season, so why not go double or quits?

2. Marcelo Bielsa

Another gamble in the vein of Zeman but more difficult to attain as he is under contract with Athletic Bilbao.,Bielsa is likely to leave in the summer with a return to his native Argentina on the cards. If Sunderland were somehow able to release him from his contract at Bilbao he would certainly provide a unique, adventurous style of football. Bilbao were lovely to watch last season on their Europa League run. He has a wealth of experience both at club and international level and is so revered at Newell's Old Boys - the club he may return to this summer - that they named their stadium after him. If we're in the business of taking risks, then Loco Bielsa, as he is nicknamed - simply Madman Bielsa in English - is certainly one worth considering.

3. Gary Neville

Although Neville lacks any managerial experience, he has shown himself to be a knowledgeable pundit, one of the few ex players truly worth listening to on a weekly basis. The chances of getting him are slim but if the Sunderland hierarchy were able to persuade him to sign, even on a short term basis until the end of the season, then he could pave the way for one of the above "gambles" to step in to start afresh in the summer. Neville would be like Keane, minus the death stare. A youthful presence but he seems to have the personality to motivate as well as the aforementioned tactical nous.

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