The revolution is here?
Q. What do a doctor, a scout and a club secretary all have in common?
A. They have all left high profile positions at SAFC in recent weeks and since Martin Bain joined.
Since July, Sunderland have lost their football operations director (former club secretary), assistant manager of the academy and yesterday, the club doctor.
Dr Ishtiaq Rehman joined Sunderland from general practice in the summer of 2013. The 41-year old worked previously as a sports physician.
Dr Rehman’s resignation is notable following the minor hubbub over Patrick van Aanholt’s withdrawal from the starting eleven at Tottenham. If the reason for his late removal from the warm-up was perfectly understandable, David Moyes reluctance to discuss the issue and his irritation when pressed, did perhaps belie that something was amiss.
However, perhaps it’s too early to build a conspiracy theory around his departure, with the official reason being due to an "ongoing review of staffing".
It is that last sentence which may be the clue here: "review of staffing". Few Chief Executives take up a new position without conducting a full evaluation of processes, structure and personnel. It was pretty clear when he was appointed, that Martin Bain had been brought in to conduct a re-modelling of Sunderland as a football club and as a business.
The necessity for it is obvious and compelling – this is a football club not performing relative to the investment put in to it either on the pitch or off it, and one that continues to haemorrhage money.
Ryan Sachs was also a notable departure. For the final eight month stint of his time at Sunderland, he held the title of ‘Football Operations Director’. Promoted after Roberto De Fanti left, he was the Italian's assistant prior to that and club secretary further back still.
Sachs was ousted from that position in the summer. It is thought Sam Allardyce had been keen to remove the role in his mission for total control over recruitment and transfer dealings. The arrival of Martin Bain in July hastened the deletion of a football operations post as the new CEO assumed full control, alongside the manager, over all player contractual and personnel business.
Then just last week, assistant academy manager, Danny Philpott, was placed on gardening leave, pending his departure from the club. Appointed in November 2014 he joined the team led by then Director of Football, Lee Congerton.
The Daily Mail was one of the first newspapers to break the news with a headline suggesting it was evidence that "Sunderland’s problems continue". If the reason for his departure was frustration that he had not succeeded 56-year old Academy manager Ged MacNamee as he expected, then so be it. His departure smacks more of ‘new broom’ than conspiracy.
I said yesterday that Sunderland have become the go-to team for ‘club in crisis’ stories and some of the headlines around these staffing matters smack a little of this. In the high-money, high-stakes world of professional football, the margins are slim and for a club who refresh the management of the football side of the business twice-a-year, we shouldn’t be too surprised by a few changes in personnel.
There might just be a behind-the-scenes revolution going on here. If not a revolution, then at least some refresh. It feels long over-due.
Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore have been called up for the next round of Under-21 Euro qualifiers.
With Gareth Southgate stepping in to the vacant senior post in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s rapid exit, former Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd has taken charge of the Under-21 squad.
A result from either of the ties will be enough to see England qualify for next summer’s Euro Finals in Poland.
Both Watmore and Pickford turn 23 next March, but will be eligible for the finals having been 21 when the qualifying tournament started in 2015.
Meanwhile, the forever hopeful Jermain Defoe may be keeping one eye on his phone on Sunday as Southgate will name his squad for the Malta and Slovenia matches.
Defoe may have been forgiven for browsing the Sunderland Echo and the Shields Gazette today had he caught sight of one of their headlines:
A tad disappointingly, the headline which promised a hint that England’s caretaker manager was considering recalling the 33-year old Sunderland hitman, gives way to some vague quotes from Seb Larsson:
"I don’t see why he can’t get a recall. I know he wants it and hopefully if he keeps going he will get it."
Certainly his four goals in six starts this season can have done Jermain Defoe's chances no harm. But, it feels unlikely Gareth Southgate will be taking any radical departures in what is clearly just a caretaker role until England appoint their next permanent manager.
As for Seb – bless him.