Despite our hopes, Sunderland have once again hopped on the managerial merry-go-round. After years and years of circulating on the most tedious of rides and amidst the hope that we may have left it behind for at least some time, Sunderland are back where they started just over some 12 months ago. We’re nothing if not consistent.
Rather than discuss the merits and flaws of Lee Johnson's sacking, upon which much of the week’s discourse will be centered around, there is a void that has been left. With a wholly unimpressive list of potential candidates of varying footballing styles, some over-the-hill names and some not even on-the-hill names, a stark reality will quickly dawn upon the fans.
As we head into a now crucial period, results have never been as magnified as they are set to be in the coming weeks, especially in the wake of yet another humbling away defeat. The need to change feels less imperative than our need for a sharp boost to thrust us into the business end of the season but in my opinion, this has to be tempered with the ownership not deviating from the wider vision they have set out for the club.
Too many times have we relied upon a short-term fix to long-term problems and once again many fans are right to be concerned in regards to the direction the club is heading in relation to our immediate future on the pitch.
This is why the club mustn’t fall into the trap of seeking a short-term appointment for a ”new manager boost”. As a club we know the dangers of this as well as the fact that once you enter the cycle, it’s extremely difficult to then exit it.
While others may question – entirely fairly – whether an approach similar to the appointment of Johnson is the correct path to tread, it is also worth noting that a short-term appointment – regardless of promotion – could prove to be equally, if not more, damaging to our longer-term goals.
Should we be promoted under a new, short-term, manager an immediate distraction heading into the summer would be as to whether that manager would stay on – much like our summer spent in a Sam Allardyce shaped limbo.
Not only would this be less than ideal for our preparations the season after, should a manager not stay on we are then again searching for a new gaffer. Not only are we to then scramble for a new manager, we then have to ask a new manager to continue a momentum built from the season before that wasn’t their own – again something we fell foul of thanks to a certain Mr Moyes.
Obviously, should any appointment stay on, the above point would become moot but considering some of the early names seemingly in the running (accuracy to be confirmed) the aforementioned situation of being a newly promoted side, sides which usually spend their time fighting in the lower half of the league, searching for a new manager seems less than appealing.
Not only this but soon lingers the potential follow on issues - what if the new manager is no good? Are we then to sack the manager in order for us to escape possible relegation? It would all seem rather familiar.
On the flip side should we fail to get a new manager bounce, the previously unthinkable – as well as the reason Lee Johnson was relieved of his duties – happens and Sunderland remain rooted in League One.
Then we’re really in the mire.
Should we appoint the short-term option and that candidate fail to fulfill what will seemingly be their one and only goal, it is without a doubt that they too would be relieved of their duties as ruthlessly as Johnson himself was.
This again brings us into familiar territory – a club rooted in League One, searching for their fourth manager as many seasons. With a new manager comes new ideas, new relationships with players and invariably an increased sense of pressure. It’s no secret that every manager’s failure to progress from this level adds to the pressure to the next man in line.
What would ring most frustrating about such a potential scenario is a sense of lost time.
Much like Johnson, it seems logical to afford a manager a settling-in period before being given a season (or best part of) to launch a charge to exit this division. While in the most recent instance this approach has failed, there is nothing to say the approach itself is flawed as much as any other.
It is far from my role as a fan to tell the club or anyone of any decent standing what to do, however, for all a big-name appointment may provide a boost, appropriate long-term planning and the vision as laid out by the ownership must be adhered to.
Of course, the path to success is rarely a straight line and there is no one singular path to that success. However, what must be considered and remembered in the approach over the coming days is the importance to not be so intensely focused on this season that, rather than lay to rest the legitimate concerns and desires of the fans, a short term appointment in any guise should not manifest itself into a feeling of simply kicking the can down the road.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the next managerial appointment through the door – which by now must almost be off its hinges – has to be the right one. For the sake and sanity of all involved at the club, not only in the sense and desire to deliver success, but the next appointment must also provide the appropriate footing for Sunderland and its hierarchy to continue steadily in line with their long term vision.
As a firm believer in the vision outlined previously to us all, our longer-term goal should not be sacrificed in the name of short-termisim as means to placate.