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Vitoria v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly

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Fan Letters: Roy Keane, Neil Warnock, Patrick Kisnorbo, John O’Shea... who’s your favourite for the job?

The SAFC head coach vacancy continues to create a lot of debate! Let us know your thoughts! Email:!

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’m not crushingly disappointed that LJ has gone at all. I think he did a good job and deserves a lot of credit for taking us forward, but there is no doubt he also had a number of limitations and these helped to make him ‘Streaky’ so all the debacle at Bolton did was move his dismissal slightly forward. What really worries me is some of the completely idiotic suggestions for manager.

Roy Keane

Really!!! Other than one good season with us, what has he actually achieved? He was poor after he got us promoted, he threw his teddy out of the pram as soon as things didn’t go his way, he had players celebrating his departure, there is no evidence at all to suggest he will work well with Speakman and a data-led recruitment team, he failed at Ipswich and has been out of management for over a decade. If ever there was yesterday’s man, it’s Keane, yet based on one season, many fans and pundits seem to rate him as a god in football management. He isn’t and trying to turn the clock back is foolish in the extreme. Many fans seem to want a manager big on discipline, which is fine, but these are the same fans who thought Di Canio was awful. Same discipline, same short temper and also had players celebrating his departure. Frankly I’d rather have Di Canio back than Keane!

Ferguson or Terry

Two candidates who have never worked as a manager, only as coaches, yet many fans seem to think these would be good options. It’s amazing how every time Phillip’s name has been mentioned as a candidate, these same fans shoot him down claiming he doesn’t have the experience in management. Double standards there I think! I don’t dismiss the idea of giving a new manager a chance, but if we go down that route, I’d much rather it was Phillips.

Better options?

I think this depends on whether the club wants a short term appointment to try to seal promotion or a long term appointment in line with our new philosophy and approach.

If it is to be a short term appointment, there’s only one choice in my view and it has to be Warnock. Which other candidate has his experience and his record of success. Nobody else comes even remotely close to his record of success. In comparison to the CV Warnock boasts, Keane is a joke as a candidate!

If we stick to our philosophy of young, hungry and upcoming that is identified using a reliance on data, Kisnorbo is a really interesting candidate who is the one name that gets me excited. He has playing experience in the English leagues, he’s developed his coaching skills in a well respected and organised group, he’s enjoyed success in every role he’s tackled, he will embrace youth development, has a good record at motivating players and fits our profile perfectly. This is much better than Keane, who fits only one criteria - discipline. I think Kisnorbo would make a really interesting appointment.

Another interesting alternative would be the Forest Green manager, who has a great track record and is doing very well indeed. If we wanted a young manager who would be a slightly better bet, we could do a lot worse than Evatt. Last season he saw what he was working with, made the necessary changes in January and stormed the league. This season, he has got used to League One, assessed what he had, made changes and is now starting to do the same as last season. I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see them sneak into the play-offs and if they don’t, I wouldn’t bet against them next season.

If it was me, I’d appoint Warnock to the end of the season and use the time to explore these younger and more long-term options more thoroughly. If we don’t go for Warnock, I’d rather have any of these three younger candidates than anyone else, especially Keane, who really will be a disaster and will almost certainly not last long.

Andrew White

Ed’s Note [Martin]: The interview Kristjaan Speakman did on the club podcast this week was very interesting in terms of why Johnson went and what they’re looking for in a replacement. The lack of consistency in results seems to be the main reason they’ve made the change, and they’re looking for someone to come in who can add things to the current group of ‘football management’ and coaches. I have to say, I really like Roy Keane, always have since his playing days at Forest, and I think he brings so much to the club in terms of his mentality, which is something we seem to be lacking. He fits with SAFC, and SAFC fits with him, too, which can’t be underestimated. That said, there are question marks about him on a few levels, but in reality there isn’t a manager out there who wouldn’t have questions around them. Kisnorbo would be interesting and I’d much rather him than some of the names mentioned – Grant McCann for example – but is that less of a risk than Keane at this point? I don’t think it is. I wouldn’t be overly disappointed with Warnock in the short term – he should have got the job 30 years ago! – but I’d choose Keane over Warnock every day of the week. Rightly or wrongly, I just think Keane lifts the perception of the club from the inside out by his very presence – and if you’re a player you listen to him.

Cardiff City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Would Warnock get us up?
Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

There were a couple of things that really stood out for me on Saturday; firstly, in the post match interview LJ looks utterly defeated and upset by the result. I may be looking at this with the benefit of hindsight, but it almost suggests that he knew what was on the cards.

The second point highlights this. I thought after coming out 2-0 down at halftime (and promptly conceding a third) we looked more and more desperate. More like a cup match, where everything depends on one result, we kept changing tactic throwing more and more forward; the result being a thrashing. If this is correct, did the players know? If so, it was a totally abject performance considering what was on the line.

In terms of managerial appointment, I think that Keane would be a perfect fit. Not necessarily (ok, maybe not entirely) for nostalgic reasons but because his skill set could be exactly what we need. I would argue that we have one, if not the, most technically gifted teams in the league, however I feel that they are somewhat weak on the mental side of the game.

Keane is a winner, he has been throughout his career, and that mentality is what these players need. We saw him falter, in the premiership when he took our squad as far as they could go in terms of ability. I don’t think we are anywhere near the ceiling with this squad.

I’m sure that he will have more than half an eye on what is happening at Man U too. Again I think his particular skills set would work there, an underperforming squad in relation to their ability. That door is closed, however, given his recent managerial past and he needs some major success stories to get that back on track. If he can do that, it would certainly be beneficial to all parties.


Ed’s Note [Martin]: You could be right about Johnson having an inkling before the Bolton game, and I’m sure some bits of information will come out in the wash – there must have been some things going on behind the scenes. As for Keane, I completely agree. I really hope his appointment is confirmed as he’s far more appealing than some of the managers out there who’ve been linked. His mentality will add a lot to the club and, aligned with the current coaching set up, it could well work. Fingers crossed!

Manchester United v Sunderland
Is Keano coming home?
Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

At the start of the current season, Lee Johnson stated the need to recruit durable players who would cope with the rigours of a season in League One. He (and others) brought in Evans and Prichard, neither of whom have played four consecutive games and barely any together. They have also brought in several younger players, the majority of whom haven’t been deemed suitable for the first eleven. The two who have played, Doyle and Cirkin, have struggled badly of late. This aligned with the loss of O’Nien, McGeady and Wright has left us short of experience and commitment. These factors and the lack of real application and desire from the likes of Neil have resulted in gutless, aimless performances away from SOL. The fault lies with those involved in recruitment during the summer of 2021!

Alan Jackson

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I think that’s incredibly harsh Alan, particularly the comments around Dan Neil. Evans has struggled to get a run of games this season, but Pritchard has been superb when he’s played – and the reality is a Pritchard who’s fit for 90 mins 46 times per season wouldn’t be playing in League One. We’ve been a bit unfortunate with injuries, and while you expect a few I doubt anyone would have thought we’d suffer to the extent we have. I’m not sure which younger players who’ve been brought in haven’t been deemed good enough, either. Hoffmann and Dajaku have played regularly - Huggins has been injured the majority of the season and Trai Hume is only weeks into his SAFC career and, as Speakman said on the club podcast this week, is getting up to speed with what’s required to play in league one. The only signing from the summer I can see who didn’t work out was Alves, and he was on loan. I do think we’ve suffered from a lack of leadership at times, but when everyone’s fit I think we’re relatively OK now. The issue away from home to my mind has been we’ve been way too open. It’s easy to think ‘everything’s sh*t!’ when we’ve had a few thrashings away from home, but I still think looking at the season overall, and the players we’ve brought in over the past 3 transfer windows, there’s an awful lot to be positive about.

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
‘Lack of application and desire’ from Dan Neil? Really?
Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

If Keane is our next manager, John O’Shea has to come as his number two. He knows the club inside out would be a great appointment. The last four appointments have been so uninspiring for the fans, Keane would excite the fans. Roy has not managed for eleven years that’s what might sway the owners to another candidate. This is Sunderland so a manager will emerge out of the blue and shock us. Personally I think they have had a name in line for weeks. Speakman said it just was not the Bolton result that got Johnson sacked so read into that what you will. The way Roy has emerged in the press in the last few days it has to be him. As I say his choice of his number two if he should get the job will be crucial. Hopefully someone will be in place by Saturday or the press will watching the directors boxes like hawks for clues at Saturdays match. Let’s get a manager in place and start winning football matches again and make the news for the right reasons PROMOTION?

Mark Wild

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Speakman’s comments were interesting Mark – he said they had a shortlist of head coaches all along, but then other people who you may not have thought of declare interest, and I suspect Keane falls into that category. As for him not managing for 11 years - he’d not managed for 36 years the first time he took over, and that worked out ok! As for O’Shea, who knows? I have no idea what he’s like as a coach, or what Keane’s relationship is like with him. It’ll be interesting to see who he does bring in if he gets the job – listening to players who played under him, he’d have been better off with someone who’d challenge him alongside him last time, so that appointment will be crucial – if he gets the job!


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