Only in football. Only at the Stadium of Light. The signs are ominous as Sunderland appoint two coaches with an unremarkable track-record to the position of caretaker to replace Simon Grayson.
Robbie ‘liked by the players’ Stockdale and Billy ‘Scottish’ McKinlay have been installed by the Black Cats to take temporary charge of a club which continues to seek the bottom of an ever deepening chasm.
With it increasingly apparent that Sunderland had decided upon Simon Grayson’s fate well before he led his players onto the pitch for last night’s encounter with Bolton, today’s announcement of the elevation of Stockdale and McKinlay to joint caretakers hints that both had already been sounded out to take charge for the trip to Middlesbrough this weekend.
Stockdale is rewarded for his lengthening spell as first team coach under various failed managers, whilst McKinlay’s sudden promotion from scout to the Sunderland dugout prior to Grayson’s exit will be viewed with some suspicion on Wearside.
Supposedly well liked by the Black Cats senior playing personnel, Stockdale worked as assistant to Kevin Ball in his stint as caretaker after Paolo Di Canio was sacked before performing first team duties under Dick Advocaat, Sam Allardyce, David Moyes and latterly Simon Grayson.
Stockdale has been part of a failed set-up at the Stadium of Light for the past five years and with the continued suggestion that the culture amongst the players is as much to blame as anything else for the past half-decade of failure at Sunderland, his association with the Black Cats suspect playing staff is quite possibly the last thing the club needs right now.
McKinlay comes with little on his CV to convince he can bring the new broom required at the Stadium of Light. A short spell at Watford which failed to convince the Hornets owner he could lead the team in the Premier League and a brief flirtation with Norwegian football are less than impressive entries in the repertoire of his managerial career.
The statement which accompanied Grayson’s swift departure last night spoke of a “fundamental change” being necessary due to the club’s lowly league position and increasing threat of relegation. Promoting two members of the discredited backroom is not that.
But it’s the ominous feel to today’s announcement which is alarming. If the pair stumble across a formula which can get a result at Middlesbrough on Sunday, surely the temptation to appoint a managerial team on the cheap with no work required to pursue a replacement will be just a little too appealing for Martin Bain and Ellis Short.
Sunderland desperately need to strip away all that has failed before and bring in someone who can galvanise and revolutionise the footballing side of the business. Stockdale and McKinlay are not that.
With Bain’s influence permeating all that he appears not to understand - coaching, recruitment, scouting, academy and senior playing personnel - the chief executive must be bold with his next appointment and bring in a bona-fide football manager who can stamp their authority on this failing club. Sadly, today hints that the likely outcome may yet be anything but.