1) Someone with name value
I’m not necessarily talking about someone like Sam Allardyce or Chris Hughton here, because the sad fact of the matter is that as a League One club we have to lower our expectations slightly and recognise that we aren’t as appealing to ‘top’ coaches as we once were, nor would we pay the wages that some of these men would demand.
It would still be beneficial though for the club to appoint someone recognisable, that can not only ‘excite’ supporters and players alike but also help to overcome one of the first issues that the new man coming in is likely to face: allies that Ross has in the camp.
Despite the fact Jack’s time has ended it would be fair to suggest that there were players in the squad who enjoyed playing for him. Aiden McGeady is one of the biggest personalities in the group, and it was alleged that the main reason he saw his future at Sunderland an extended his contract was because of the previous manager.
Whoever comes in next needs to be seen as an improvement on what we had, and one way around that is in appointing a coach who is recognisable; someone who can galvanise everyone involved in the club almost immediately in a way that Jack Ross simply wasn’t able to.
2) Someone with EFL promotion experience
When Sunderland’s owners appointed Jack Ross as manager they weren’t just appointing a man that they felt could get them out of League One, they were employing someone who they felt could grow with the club; someone who had undoubted potential and was destined for the top.
One of the biggest flaws I think Ross had during his spell in charge was his lack of knowledge of the league he was managing in.
For large swathes of last season, and this, we’ve seen him attempt to play long, direct football with players simply not suited to it, and in games away at places like Wycombe and Lincoln we’ve been bullied because we were simply unable to compete - we’ve often looked unprepared to face the type of opposition we’ve regularly came up against more often than not. That has led to some uninspiring performances at places where fans traditionally would expect us to go and take three points, perhaps due to the inexperience of our manager.
For me, the next man needs to have had EFL promotions on his CV.
He needs to have seen it and done it before, meaning he’s coming here with something of a blueprint that has already been used to gain promotion elsewhere. Knowing exactly how to play against some of the nasty, rugged teams at this level could well be the difference between finishing in the top two and making up part of the chasing pack.
3) Someone with an experienced assistant manager
Another big mistake made when appointing Jack Ross was allowing him free rein to bring on board his own coaching staff, none of whom had experienced playing or managing in England for a considerable length of time.
Had Jack been able to lean on an older, wiser, experienced assistant then maybe his decision-making might have been better more often than not. I honestly believe the lack of experience in Ross’s backroom team was a huge factor in why we ultimately never achieved our goal of promotion last season.
We’ve seen ourselves what sort of impact a decent, experienced assistant manager can have. Someone with know-how and experience of being in pressure situations in the Football League can been massively valuable when the manager has to make important decisions.
For as promising as Ross’s backroom team may well be, none of them had ever competed regularly against wily League One outfits who, whilst perhaps lacking the quality of player we have here at Sunderland, know this division inside out and know exactly how to stop better teams from controlling games.
Whoever the next man is, whether he’s experienced or a promising rookie, must be paired with someone who knows League One like the back of their hand.
4) Someone with an obvious coaching/playing style
This, to me, is the most important thing that the new head coach needs to demonstrate.
For as long as I can remember - perhaps even as far back as when Guy Poyet was manager - it feels as though Sunderland have not had a discernible playing style. It would be comforting when turning up to games that we can see in the way that we play exactly what it is that we are trying to do.
I’m not expecting Sunderland to play a version of League One tiki-taka, but for a manager to put our team out and for every player to know their job, regardless of the opposition.
The constant changing of Luke O’Nien’s position under the previous manager is perhaps indicative of how important this actually is - how is he expected to thrive when Ross would regularly change where he was playing two or three times in a game, purely based on his reaction to how our opposition were playing?
Jack Ross was never able to implement the methods that we were led to believe defined his coaching style at St Mirren - we never saw a high-pressing, high-energy Sunderland side that went out and destroyed teams by working harder and playing with confidence for any considerable period of time.
That has led to a multitude of issues, and a negativity which has ran from the men on the pitch to the fans in the stands. We have the players to blow away the majority of teams at this level, so why not go out there with the objective to simply out-work and out-score our opponents, playing in a style that shows we’re working hard on the training pitch?
Ross was never able to find a way of playing that got his strikers scoring goals on a regular basis after Josh Maja left in January. Will Grigg has thus far looked like an expensive flop, but his scoring record elsewhere suggests that the right manager will be able to rebuild his confidence and get him scoring the goals that we need him to in order to ensure promotion. Likewise, Charlie Wyke had no problem finding the net when at Carlisle and Bradford but has never once looked like a forward capable of delivering the 15-20 goals that we need him to get across the entirety of a season.
Whoever the next man is, they have to recognise the talent that we have in our ranks. Sunderland have the strongest SQUAD in this division, and that’s a hill I’m prepared to die on. What we need now is to bring someone on board who also recognises this, and figures out a way to get the most from players like Maguire, Grigg, Gooch and Power that managers of pretty much every other side in the league would love to have at their disposal.