The Currently Employed
Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham FC Manager)
The performance of Slavisa Jokanovic at current Premier League side Watford shows he knows how to get a team promoted in a less-than-stable environment and the exceptional job he’s done at Fulham further enhances his credentials. Taking a team that finished 20th in 2016 to 6th in just one year, while playing some of the best football in the division and not spending a great deal makes him look ideal for Sunderland.
It may be easy to suggest that Jokanovic will be looking to stay on at Fulham and complete the job but there’s some slight unrest at Craven Cottage. The former Serbia international was quoted as saying:
I expect our best players to stay with us next season, this is the information I have been given from the club's board.
So broken promises could see him depart and take up a fresh challenge, at a bigger club. Should he give Fulham the cold shoulder, Ellis Short should make him his top target.
David Wagner (Huddersfield Town manager)
A play-off final win for Huddersfield will take Wagner out of the running, but defeat to Reading could see him ready to jump ship.
Formerly a coach a Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp, and very much a disciple of the Liverpool manager’s philosophies, Wagner has gegenpressed Huddersfield from relegation candidates to just missing out on automatic promotion. He’s done this with very little investment, and with players such as Dean Whitehead being prominent in the midfield. His ability to get the best out of what he’s got would stand him in good stead at Sunderland.
A few clubs fluttered their eyelashes towards the German and he came close to joining Wolfsburg in December before turning the job down and with reports that he may depart should Huddersfield lose out on promotion, there’s no need to rule this one out just yet.
Derek McInnes (Aberdeen manager)
Taking Aberdeen from mid-table-almost-sleepwalking-to-relegation obscurity to second place finishes, European football and cup final wins/appearances, all on limited funds is very impressive. With Celtic continuing their monopoly of first place, McInnes may feel he’s taken The Dandy Dons as far as he can and is ready for a new challenge.
A journey south of the border, with the potential to take Sunderland back up to the Premier League, certainly wouldn’t be seen as a step down by McInnes - it would be treated as an opportunity. Walter Smith is reportedly aiding Martin Bain and Ellis Short in their quest for a manager, so expect the 45 year old’s name to keep popping up.
Two years left on his deal at Aberdeen would mean Sunderland would need to pay for his services but if they can’t get Jokanovic, McInnes is the one I would look towards.
Jaap Stam (Reading manager)
As with David Wagner, promotion for Jaap Stam will see any links to Wearside evaporate. Even if they do lose at Wembley, Stam leaving still feels unlikely given the backing he’s received throughout the season; a move to Sunderland, where the purse strings will be far tighter, would be rather surprising.
That being said, taking a club from 17th to 3rd is a fantastic achievement and his playing career will instantly demand the respect of any player, so if the club are to be ambitious, they should be sounding out Stam.
Garry Monk (ex-Swansea & Leeds United)
Like Jokanovic, Garry Monk’s ability to work wonders at a turbulent club is the main reason Sunderland supporters find him an attractive prospect.
Monk resigned today from his position at Leeds United, and with him now on the free agent market there will be a queue of clubs waiting to bring him in as their manager.
Sunderland would be a good opportunity for the ex-Swansea manager to continue his progression at a big club, and a season in the Championship will have given him a decent understanding of what’s required to gain promotion.
Nigel Pearson (ex-Leicester City, Hull City & Derby County)
Pearson did a decent job at Leicester, getting them promoted and keeping them in the Premier League. However, he was in charge of Derby County for just five months before walking out and his personality would be a hard one to warm to, especially coming off the back of Moyes. The hostility he treats the media with and lack of warmth towards supporters could make a tough job even harder, so a bad start could see him lose the fans quickly.
He may have once fought off a pack of wild dogs but Pearson’s smarmy, I know better than everyone else attitude is hardly what Sunderland need right now.
Roy Hodgson (ex-England, Liverpool and Inter Milan)
If you’ve just lost a manager who has been burned by his previous jobs and felt the club was beneath him, then I don’t see any point in appointing Roy Hodgson. The way he failed at two tournaments with England will still be wounding the former West Brom, Fulham and Blackburn manager and it’s hard to see how he’d bring the enthusiasm needed to lift the club.
I'm not after a job but at the same time I am not looking to turn down jobs.
If one day someone comes to me and says, “We would like you to take on this job” and I like the idea then I would be more than happy to do it."
Still, best avoided if you ask me.
Some figures in the media have suggested that Aitor Karanka is one of the front runners, with the bookies odds reflecting that, but it wouldn’t exactly be an appointment to get the pulse racing.
Yes, he did a good job at Middlesbrough in getting them promoted, but his tactical stubbornness in the Premier League would leave many fans wary of how the team would fare should they go up. Both the tactical stubbornness and digs towards the fans will have Sunderland fans’ memories flashing back to Gus Poyet’s final days at the club, making it seem like Karanka wouldn’t be a great fit for Sunderland.
The romantic choice. Super Kev has been learning his trade at coaching level with spells at Leicester City and Derby County and now he feels like he’s ready to make the step up into management. At a recent talk in at the Stadium of Light, when asked if he would want to manage the club one day, Phillips simply replied “I would love to.” So you’d certainly get the required desire to succeed, and if his playing style was anything to go by, you’d imagine he would look to build an attack-minded team in the mould of his glory days at Sunderland.
It would be a risk and it would be heartbreaking if he failed, but having now gained the required qualifications to manage at Championship level, Phillips looks bound to move into management sooner or later. Will it be with Sunderland though?
Along with Phillips, Stefan Schwarz was part of the Peter Reid heyday and has the coaching badges needed to take the job. Should he come in, it would be his first job as a head coach, with his previous experience coming as an assistant at Helsingborg and the Sweden Under 21 side.
Speaking to the media, Schwarz seems to have tossed his hat well and truly into the ring:
I have played for some very big clubs in Europe and won a lot of trophies, but my time at Sunderland is right up there with any of those.
I think I understand the mentality of the Sunderland fans, and the culture of the area. Sunderland teams have to have an identity, and the players need to know their duties and responsibilities to each other.
I also know how to work with players from many different cultures, which is important in the modern game. Of course if the chance came to manage Sunderland, I would be very interested.
Someone wanting the breakthrough into management with a good understanding of the club and a hunger to succeed is certainly enticing, and may stand Schwarz in good stead should the board look to go for an unexpected choice.
The former captain and fan favourite is mentioned whenever Sunderland change manager having taken caretaker charge on two occasions. If there was ever a time for him to get the job permanently, it feels like it’s now or never though.
Away from the Premier League spotlight, Ball wouldn’t be under the same amount of pressure and would get some leeway from supporters should things not get off to an ideal start. As with Phillips, it would be heartbreaking to see it end badly, and you wonder how much of a modern touch Bally would bring to a club desperately needing to be reinvigorated. Any shortcomings would be more than matched with undying loyalty and enthusiasm, but it still may prove to be too much of a gamble.