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Chris Weatherspoon: My Top 3 Choices For Next Sunderland Manager

Martin O'Neill's stunning Wearside departure late on Saturday has left plenty reeling, and even more mightily confused as to whom Ellis Short will replace him with. While I believe the removal of O'Neill to be a suicidal decision on the club's part, we must soldier on as ever.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

In truth, the managerial wilderness of late is something akin to Sunderland's midfield, made up of individuals whom, at a glance, offer little in the way of inspiration or variety. The likes of Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren have unsurprisingly already seen their names bandied about, but such an appointment would be of no benefit to the club.

What Sunderland need is a change, radical or otherwise. O'Neill, whom I still believed would have got it right eventually, must now be deemed a failure on Wearside. And with his departure, and the removal of a man that many though was the individual to lead the Black Cats to long-awaited glories, must also depart the same old tactic of employing a new manager every two seasons or so. Whomever joins the club now must be given the chance to transform Sunderland's entire philosophy, to lay the foundations for years to come, even when he himself may no longer reside in the Stadium of Light dugout.

1. Rafa Benitez

Maladies at Chelsea aside, Benitez remains a top class manager. Rafa is currently footballer's equivalent of a wounded animal; his pride is damaged, his reputation in doubt. A project like Sunderland is just what the Spaniard needs to reaffirm his status as one of the game's foremost thinkers.

Give him five years, plenty of money, and even more patience. Let him build a dynasty. For too long Sunderland have hopped from one strategy to another, the results being the muddled mess that has greeted us this season. Benitez is a deep thinker of the game, one with a proven track record of success and plenty of fire in the belly to embrace a challenge as grand as the Wearsiders. Chelsea are getting rid of him at the end of the season, and there's no point him being a lame duck any longer.

2. David Moyes

This is very much in the 'never going to happen but I really hope it does' pile. Moyes has overseen 11 years of stability at Everton, and is widely seen as one of the league's better managers. So, why would he leave all that to come join a struggling (and seemingly cursed) club in the north-east?

Well, for a starter, Moyes has been incredibly hamstrung at Goodison Park. With chairman Bill Kenwright having repeatedly reiterated the fact that the Toffees' well is pretty dry, a new challenge could be just what Moyes needs to avoid his time on Merseyside evolving into a dull stranglehold on the lower end of the top 10. Moyes has built a vibrant side at Everton, one with plenty of entertainment to go alongside good results, and the appointment of a big name - one without the ignominy of relegation on his managerial CV - would certainly help in terms of player recruitment.

3. Gus Poyet

The riskiest, but perhaps most forward-thinking, option. Poyet has proven himself to be a brilliant manager in League One and the Championship, overseeing promotion for Brighton and Hove Albion in his first season in charge. The Seagulls are currently 6th in the second tier, having lost just nine games all season (the same as the league leaders, Cardiff) and look a good bet to do well in the end of season play-offs.

Poyet has proven himself able to mould a side that plays an exciting brand of football - something which plenty will hope for on Wearside, given the drudge served up so far this term - and would come with the added incentive of needing to prove himself at the highest level. It could backfire hugely, of course, but of the 'risky' candidates supposedly available, Poyet is the best of the lot.

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