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Of five of Sunderland’s previous caretaker bosses, how bad do Stockdale & McKinlay rank?

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Caretaker managers - have they ever been the solution at Sunderland?

Sunderland v Watford - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images

Bob Stokoe

  • April 16th 1987 - June 9th 1987
  • W3 D2 L4

Following the sacking of Lawrie McMenemy, legend of the 1973 cup win, Bob Stokoe, came back to the club in an attempt to halt the horrendous inevitable slide into the old Third Division.

Already a hero on Wearside, Bob Stokoe was met with open arms after just under two years of hell under the man now commonly known on Wearside as ‘Mackemenemy’.

Many good grown men have gone to their graves in this part of the world cursing McMenemy - a man who as synonymous with the decline in Sunderland as Thatcher is.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Wins against Shrewsbury and Crystal Palace didn’t prevent us from suffering the nerve-shredding experience that was the relegation play-offs. Unfortunately, the Lads came up short due to the away goals rule, and were subsequently relegated to the third tier for the first and only time in our history.

The appointment of Denis Smith and an immediate return to the second tier followed, but Stokoe’s legendary status remains unblemished despite the unfortunate relegation.


Kevin Ball

  • March 7th 2006 - May 31st 2006 + Sept 22nd 2013 - Oct 8th 2013
  • W1 D2 L7 / W1 D0 L2

The only man to have taken charge of Sunderland on a caretaker basis twice; Bally has been a name touted by former players and supporters alike as one who could bring the fire back to the club on a full time basis, particularly since Simon Grayson’s dismal sacking last week.

Ball’s temporary spells in charge look poor on paper, but it’s worth remembering he managed draws at Old Trafford and Goodison Park whilst helping us to our only home win of the season in that first spell trying to stop the rot.

Those feats were managed with a squad bereft of confidence and quality and one that eventually went down as the worst Premier League side ever on 15-points.

Sunderland v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Ball’s second spell as caretaker was far shorter and though it yielded zero league wins, two impressive performances at home to Manchester United and Liverpool meant many fans felt the former skipper should have been given the role full time before Gus Poyet was handed the poisoned dugout chair.

Bally is simply held in the utmost regard by the people who matter in football, in this region and in this club.


Ricky Sbragia

  • Dec 4th 2008 - Dec 27th 2008
  • W2 D1 L0

Ah, good old Ricky. Although he was a quite horrific manager, with the personality of a cardboard box, his short spell in charge was next to spotless looking back.

He managed us to consecutive four goal hauls as we followed up a 4-0 home win over West Brom with a 4-1 away win at Hull.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

A goalless home draw to Blackburn should have been a warning of things to come as we narrowly avoided defeat when Jason Roberts rounded Marton Fulop in the final minute - only to fire the ball wide.

Saying that, Sbragia is an accomplished coach and if Robbie and Billy had managed to pull off the results Big Ricky did as caretaker manager, then we’d certainly be a lot happier than we are currently.


David Merrington

  • Oct 25th 1978 - Dec 13th 1978
  • W4 D2 L2

In terms of caretaker managers, former Burnley centre back Merrington is one of our most successful. Though he is likely a relative unknown to our younger readers, it’s rather interesting that during his eight games in charge he took us from ninth place in the old Division Two all the way to fourth, helping himself to an impressive 50% win ratio.

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His stand out game was his penultimate one - a 5-0 win at home to Bristol Rovers meant he was offered the job on a full-time basis; however, he surprisingly declined the offer, the Sunderland board instead opting to hand the the reigns to Billy Elliott (no, not the dancer).


Eric Black

  • Nov 30th 2011 - Dec 3rd 2011
  • W0 D0 L1

The former assistant to Steve “that’s fur shoowa” Bruce took charge of only one game in his caretaker role - and it was quite clear to see why.

A horrendous start to the campaign meant former Wigan manager Bruce - who, in case you didn’t know, managed to get Sunderland to 10th in the league a season earlier - was given the boot after two and half years at club which presented his long time assistant Black the task of grabbing a result at follow relegation strugglers Wolves.

Aston Villa v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Despite taking the lead due to a sublime early goal from Kieran Richardson, a missed penalty from Seb Larsson gave a Steven Fletcher-inspired Wolves the kick up the backside they needed to overturn the deficit and win 2-1.

Martin O’Neill, who was sat in the stands, took over the following week and we went on the be absolutely mint - for at least three months, before it all turned to shit again.


So there you have it, it’s a bit hit and miss in terms of the success brought by caretaker managers. Whether Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay will be given opportunities to prove their credentials remains to be seen.