He was promoted from scout to coach just a fortnight ago and was declared bankrupt in late September, but being in the right place at the right time could see Billy McKinlay emerge as the big winner from Sunderland’s latest managerial turmoil.
The Black Cats are expected to make a further statement in the next 24 hours on who will take charge of the first team for Sunday’s trip to Middlesbrough, and the one-time Watford boss is expected to be in the away dugout for Sunderland alongside first team coach Robbie Stockdale.
And with no one lined up yet for the permanent position, McKinlay and Stockdale could be set for an extended spell as caretakers at the Stadium of Light.
48-year-old McKinlay was declared insolvent at the end of September after failing to settle large debts thought to be owed to the taxman.
Owing nearly £700,000, the former Scottish international applied for his own bankruptcy after pumping his money into a failed film production investment scheme which has also seen several ex-footballers go bust. The scheme had been the focus of HMRC investigations after being ruled as a tax avoidance scam.
Sunderland defender John O’Shea and former boss Martin O’Neill were caught up in a similar legal case last year after UK tax authorities won a seperate landmark case which related to investments in films.
McKinlay was number two to David Moyes at Real Sociedad and had been tipped to rejoin the former Manchester United boss when he was appointed at the Stadium of Light in the summer of 2016.
He was appointed manager of Norwegian side Stabæk Fotball in November 2015 after being sacked along with Moyes from the Spanish club, but he left the Eliteserien side after less than a year in the role.
Prior to his spell with Moyes, McKinlay was reserve team boss at Fulham with occasional stints as caretaker before becoming Northern Ireland assistant manager.
McKinlay was then appointed Watford first-team coach under Óscar Garcia in September 2014 and replaced the Spaniard after he resigned due to suffering from ill health. After just eight days in the job, McKinlay was replaced as Watford head coach by Slaviša Jokanović.
The former Scottish midfielder has always had one eye on returning to a management role and his fortune in finding himself in pole position at desperate Sunderland could yet pay dividends.
McKinlay’s playing career included outings for Scotland at Euro 1996 and the World Cup in 1998. After making more than 200 appearances for Dundee United he signed for Blackburn Rovers in a £1.75 million deal in 1995. He also had spells with Leicester City and Fulham.
Scottish, experienced and presumably cheap, McKinlay could well tick several boxes for Martin Bain as the beleaguered chief executive seeks to appoint his third manager in 16 months at the Stadium of Light.