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What are the first things that Alex Neil should do when he arrives at Sunderland?

What are the first things that Alex Neil should address when he starts his job as Sunderland’s Head Coach?

Preston North End v West Ham United - Pre-Season Friendly Photo b Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

There’s a few ‘quick wins’ a new manager could get, starting with sitting everybody down and making them watch a few DVDs from earlier in the season to remind the players they are capable of producing good football on their day.

Perhaps looking back on a couple of our better wins, plus the QPR cup tie where we managed to shut out higher division opposition, will help them regain a bit of confidence as whilst I am sure some of the fans want to tear a strip off them right now I think a gentler approach is needed given their characters. Hard as it might be for supporters, a new boss will want to draw a line under recent performances and quickly focus on how we go forward in our remaining fixtures; the home truths can wait until a more appropriate time.

Whilst the players are busy in the analysis room however I’d be scouring the free agents list to see if we can bring somebody in - it is a short term option I know, but there are one or two players that need taking out of the side that are either in need of a break or appear to be carrying injuries.

Some of the new arrivals looked to have some potential against Cheltenham Town but we could still do with one or two more that have been around the block. Getting the number of a decent sports physiologist whilst we’re on might not be a bad idea either, as clearly there is something up with certain members of the team right now.

Another thing Neil and his team could do is send a strong message to the fans. We’ve heard the ‘rallying calls’ before and a lot of it is just empty rhetoric, but the mood is low amongst supporters right now and a bullish message acknowledging that there are problems to solve and that there is a plan for how to do it would be a boost. The crowd can be a major plus when it is on side and it could make or break any new manager’s time here.

After that it will be plain good old-fashioned work on the training ground that will get us out of the current slump; just getting back to basics, working on shape and trying to lift our heads a little can all go a long way. Panic has well and truly set in, but now taking things one day at a time is the only option.

Preston North End v Newcastle United - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Stephen White - CameraSport via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

The one real thing the new gaffer needs to do is steady the ship for me. We are all over the bloody place.

The whole squad are clearly rattled by the abrupt sacking of Johnson, and they need clarity on where we truly are headed. A sizeable portion of the squad seemed to feel aggrieved when Lee was let go, so Alex Neil definitely needs to underline the way forward under him, and as has been explained to him.

At the top level it should be the same as before though, shouldn’t it?

How the Neil does that is the difficult part. We thought we were a club that had a philosophy, style and ethos which was claimed to be increasingly embedded, right from the owner down to the apprentices. It was based on data-driven decisions, attack-and-press based play, promoting youth with experienced additions, and eventually hitting long-term goals without reacting to short-term issues.

Now, we look like a club that have totally lost their way with that whole structure and approach. We reactively sacked Lee Johnson with no immediate replacement readied, and have been hiring players we arguably don’t need, while not backfilling/suitably covering those we do.

Someone needs to make it clear what our direction is, and any changes to it that Neil wants the squad to follow, as agreed with his new boss. That is the primary objective.

I agree with others that we need to look at the free agent market and the youth teams to see if anyone can help plug the holes, and we need to instill confidence and belief asap. Without course and direction reset and totally clear, it doesn’t matter who we hire, we are screwed.

All change then, but let’s make it clear what will change, both for good and in the near future.

One more thing, let’s make sure the new gaffer brings some brown trousers, with room for a yellow pages down the arse… you’re going to need them.

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Will Jones says...

We honestly have no idea what limitations each Head Coach is being put under this hierarchy.

They may have to confirm to a certain style of play, not have a lot of say in transfers and have to coach players in a way that has been instructed by the coaches who analyse the data.

The first thing I want from any new coach, whether this counts or not, is to bring in coaching staff who are cohesive and are all sure about how WE as a group are to move forward. I don’t think I am asking much to want this before Alex Neil even sets foot through the front door.

On the pitch, what I want most of all is for a back-to-basics approach. I am of the belief that we were over-coached in one specific tactic under LJ. Under LJ it was obvious we were peppered with training to play one way, whether 1-0 up against 10 men or 3-0 down and it not working, we play the same way and somehow wouldn’t win either. I want the creative players to be able to not be restrained by one style of play and be able to do as Clarke was against Cheltenham and do as he sees fit.

I hope Neil has already had a look at our squad, and has chosen how he wants to play - and it needs to be adaptable. Not only do I want him to be adaptable in his style of play, but I want him to be able to allow the players to push and pull on their own press when needed and make sure the players realise when and where to change.

The lads need some confidence, some freedom and some guidance - they look deprived of all three and within the caretaker's time in charge it’s only become worse. We need Alex Neil to steer the ship that seems to have been lost. It’s time somebody took control.

Preston North End v Norwich City - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

It’s going to be a slow burner for Alex Neil, who will doubtless have to get a disgruntled fan base onside as well as uniting and revitalising a squad bereft of confidence and fight.

It will have to be a back-to-basics start for Neil, tightening up the leaky defence being his number one priority.

The new gaffer will have a raft of attacking options and it will be a challenge to first find, and secondly field, a settled XI which can hopefully go on a much-needed winning streak.

With the club at a low ebb, the new incumbent could quietly earn some brownie points with two or three early wins to get the fans onside and get our campaign moving again.