Former Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has been installed as the early favourite to replace Simon Grayson as permanent manager of Sunderland, but Robbie Stockdale looks the most likely to lead the team out at the Riverside this weekend.
Early indications in the wake of Grayson’s swiftly announced exit following last night’s bottom of the table draw with Bolton are that the club will appoint internally ahead of Sunday’s Tees-Wear derby.
Understand SAFC will make caretaker appointment from within today. Robbie Stockdale likely.— Craig Hope (@CraigHope_DM) November 1, 2017
Karanka has been without a club since he left Teesside in March as Boro slumped to relegation from the Premier League alongside Sunderland.
William Hill have the Spaniard at 6/1 favourite to succeed the hapless Grayson at the Stadium of Light, at the same price as ex-Black Cats striker Kevin Phillips and his former boss Peter Reid.
Karanka has plenty of experience of managing in the Championship having led Middlesbrough into the Premier League and the fact he took over the Teessiders in 2013 with the club at a low ebb may be seen as an attribute for sorry Sunderland.
Succeeding Tony Mowbray with Middlesbrough just a few points above the relegation places to League One, Karanka led Boro into the Play-offs before they were beaten at Wembley by Norwich.
The following season Middlesbrough went one better with Karanka at the helm, gaining automatic promotion to the Premier League and reaching the last eight of the FA Cup.
A former defender, the 44-year-old’s reputation for conservative football could sway the Sunderland hierarchy into taking a look at appointing him.
The Black Cats have conceded an average of two goals a game in their fifteen Championship fixtures to date and whilst finding the net has not been a problem, a leaky defence continues to blight the club’s league position.
Grayson was dismissed last night after his team conceded three to bottom club Bolton, a side who had only managed 4 goals in their previous ten league matches. Sunderland have now let in 15 in their last five with the now departed ex-Preston boss unable to settle upon an effective back-line.
Karanka is thought to be keen to work again in the English league and the fact Sunderland would not have to stump up compensation to appoint him may appeal to the cash-strapped Black Cats who now have to pay off Grayson.
Whether the fiery former Real Madrid coach could work under the oppressive regime led by CEO Bain in place of absent owner Ellis Short may be the major doubt over his willingness to discuss the vacancy at the Stadium of Light.
With a huge game to come on Sunday, followed by another international break, it seems Sunderland will take their time to find their latest permanent manager - the ninth in eight years.
Stockdale is next in line internally, with Billy McKinlay likely to assist him on the touchline on Sunday. The former Scotland midfielder was promoted from scout to coaching duties a couple of weeks ago.