Ged McNamee departed his long-held role at the head of Sunderland's academy in November. His departure ended a twenty-year association with the club and left something of a void in the set-up at the Academy of Light.
The newly created post of 'Chief Football Officer' was filled by Simon Wilson in January and he now oversees a whole new team with the arrival of Jimmy Sinclair as Academy Manager and new Under-23 head coach Elliot Dickman.
Jimmy Sinclair to be new academy director at #safc https://t.co/lcVez7Sjzr— David Coverdale (@dpcoverdale) February 2, 2017
Since he took up the role of Chief Executive last summer, Martin Bain has overseen a complete overhaul of the Sunderland structure. The Commercial Director has recently departed as have personnel in Human Resources and various other back office functions - even the club doctor has been replaced.
Jimmy Sinclair's arrival reunites him with Bain. The two men worked together for the best part of a decade at Rangers and the 59-year-old takes charge at a crucial time for the academy at Sunderland.
With the club now facing its comeuppance for years of poor recruitment and money wasted on substandard players, the importance of maximising the potential of home-grown talent has never been more significant.
Also, Sunderland currently have a plethora of academy products about ready to graduate. Some have been hovering around the fringes of the first team as David Moyes drafted in emergency bodies during the worst of the injury crisis in November and December. George Honeyman leads the way with a couple of decent showings ahead of the likes of Elliot Embleton, Josh Maja and Joel Asoro.
Curious to find out what we might expect from Sinclair and his boss now he has been at Sunderland for six months, we had a chat with James Black, Rangers fan and one of the folks behind GotTheBattleFeverOn.com.
RR: The appointment of Jimmy Sinclair pretty much completes Bain's 'revolution' at Sunderland. The club have now replaced personnel in key positions in every function at the club - is that Martin Bain's style - appointing his own people?
JB: Martin Bain will surround himself with people who don't rock the boat. Seeing that Jimmy Sinclair has found his way to the North-East isn't a big surprise as Bain sticks to what (and who) he knows.
RR: Currently the board at Sunderland now only has two directors other than Martin Bain as CEO and Ellis Short as owner. One is the finance director, who does - well - the finance, the other is Short's long-term right-hand man. With our American owner now largely absent, Bain presumably has huge control over our club. Was there a similar oligarchy at Rangers during his tenure?
JB: Bain served under a handful of different Chairmen but controlled the club and was very much the man in charge on a day-to-day basis. There were normally (but not always) a number of others on the board but Bain was the one pulling the strings on behalf of the owner. If there was one positive that could come from that it's that he's loyal to whoever has their name above the door.
RR: Bain arrived with a huge mandate at a club which is perpetually in crisis and fan support remains reasonable thanks to two factors. First, many have applauded his honesty at painting a truthful but bleak picture, especially of the club's finances; and second because he couldn't do any worse than his predecessors who ran the club like a corner shop from top to bottom. Does any of that sound familiar?
JB: VERY. For all of the criticisms that can be rightly aimed at him, he does have experience of being on a board of directors facing serious financial issues. Before Craig Whyte purchased Rangers and drove the company into liquidation, Bain had spent years fire fighting as HMRC launched an investigation into the use of Employee Benefit Trusts. Absentee-owner Sir David Murray looked to sell up while not putting any money into the club and the bank had a representative on the board as they looked to claw back some of the tens of millions they had lent to Murray's network of companies.
RR: In fact, Bain and David Moyes have presented a united front in dampening even the slightest whiff of hope and expectation, and presumably they've staked their reputations on the mantra that we shouldn't expect any better than what we're lumbered with any time soon. Is that the man's usual style?
JB: If that's what the owner wants then that's what he'll get. The second that Ellis Short turns on Moyes, Bain will be handing him the knife to plunge into Moyes' back.
RR: Jimmy Sinclair is a pretty underwhelming appointment, is that a fair viewpoint?
RR: Though saying that, his predecessor Ged McNamee was hardly popular with allegations of nepotism, favouritism and failure lingering around him - that should help Sinclair at least. We're not in for more of the same are we?
JB: Unfortunately. If you're Jimmy's type of player, you'll be afforded every opportunity. If you're not, well, the transfer window opens again soon. Either way, don't expect someone who is going to be a champion of the Academy players and state their case to the manager about their suitability for the first team.
RR: Our Academy has until recently being a poor performing function of the club. Aside from Jordan Henderson, Jordan Pickford and a couple of others, it's produced very little; what was Sinclair's record actually like at Rangers in terms of first team players or those who could be sold for some income?
JB: There were some gems that came through during his time running the Academy. Most of them ended up leaving the club for pennies after being allowed to run their deal down or released because they weren't 'good enough'. It is only fair though that it's pointed out that for a large spell of Sinclair's time at Rangers he had a bespoke multi-million pound training facility at a time when Premier League clubs were just getting their act together in that respect.
One of the biggest issues over Sinclair's time at the club is the number of players who were let go as teenagers only to end up proving Sinclair wildly wrong. More than a few have been released by Rangers as kids only to go on to a Premier League career.
(This interview will give you a good idea and some good quotes to use highlighting his thinking as a head of youth.)
RR: Why did he leave Rangers in the end? He's not exactly a spring chicken either.
JB: Financial constraints. He was on a healthy salary with little reward. And we had Mike Ashley's sidekick Derek Llambias doing his master's bidding. He was immediately replaced with Craig Mulholland who appears to be doing a far better job.
RR: His career since has hardly been flushed with success, have you noted any of it? Such as his stint at Queens Park and the SFA.
JB: I followed it a bit. Thanks to Queen's Park being an amateur club they will have welcomed someone of his reputation coming in to work with their kids unpaid. I was surprised to read he was recently Eric Black's number 2 at Villa.