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Roker Roundtable: Alex Neil has swapped Sunderland for Stoke - how did it come to this?

Despite seemingly being a perfect fit for our club, Neil has decided to leave for the Potteries. We asked our panel for their thoughts on his shock departure

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Mitch Marshall says...

This is the worst I can remember feeling about a manager or a player since Darren Bent left the club.

I’ll always be glad that Neil took the job and eventually got us promoted, but I have to say that this has tarnished his legacy beyond repair for me. To seemingly chase money ahead of building a successful side is really sad, and although there may be more going on at the club than we can see, I’d say we’ve backed him well for a newly-promoted Championship side.

Tomorrow’s match against Norwich is probably a free hit.

It’s against a team who’ll probably challenge for promotion, but I have no real enthusiasm for the game, and I suspect many of us feel that way.

I think the number one priority, even before sorting out a new manager, is to make sure we make the necessary signings.

If we can add the likes of Edouard Michut or Jean Paul van Hecke, whoever succeeds Alex Neil will be working with a squad that can still have a decent season.

Today has been horrible for Sunderland fans, but the club needs to focus on making sure the team continues on its upward curve. Then we can all move on, and hopefully prove to Neil how misguided his apparent decision to leave has been.

Sunderland v Southend United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sam Quigley says...

This is why we can’t have nice things.

You have to ask questions of the board and how they could allow this to happen. Surely when Stoke got in contact, we should’ve allowed them to speak to Neil because of the time remaining on the contract, before we offered him a bumper deal ourselves.

Maybe Neil doesn’t like the current model, or maybe signing players under the age of twenty doesn’t float his boat. Unfortunately, we’ll only ever hear one side of the story.

If they’re willing to let the best manager we’ve had since Big Sam left, then what happens to Ross Stewart and company? It’s worrying.

When Neil signs for a team who have languished in mid-table obscurity, with no backing from their board and who got played off the park last weekend, he’ll go with very little thanks from the Sunderland faithful.

Proper ‘Sunderland’, though.

Sheffield United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Ewan Bowman says...

A disappointing day for everyone connected with Sunderland, because Neil has unquestionably been the most successful manager/head coach since Big Sam.

Personally, I think there has been a falling out with the board.

Recently, Neil regularly mentioned that he was frustrated with the speed at which new recruits were being brought in.

The rolling contract situation was also a concern, but this could easily have been ironed out long before Stoke’s interest. He should have been offered a new deal within an hour of the playoff final.

Only Sunderland could win at Stoke one weekend then by the next weekend lose our manager to the same team. It is typical, and the next appointment is going to be crucial.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

David Holloway says...

Today’s news is desperately disappointing and has been a complete surprise, but should we really be shocked?

The club’s strategy and management systems are all data-driven, and decisions are made on the results of that. We know this because Speakman has proudly told us about it.

This will likely lead to regular changes in head coach and days like today could be par for the course if this model is persisted with.

Whether the change is due to ‘underlying performance data’ which resulted in Lee Johnson’s dismissal when we were third in the league, or the working environment is incompatible with what Neil would ideally like, it is likely that there will be regular changes of coach.

I expect that the position of head coach is seen as one job within the structure and not in the traditional sense of the term - a dominant individual who manages the whole club.

The challenge will be to find a head coach who fits the squad profile and systems, and who can work within this structure. Time will tell if the model and the data can produce the right answer.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

We started the day hoping to finalise deals for a PSG prospect and a highly-rated Premier League defender, and yet within a couple of hours the whole club seems to be in turmoil.

To say this is a shock would be a massive understatement, but we all know by now that at Sunderland, anything can happen.

It is frustrating that for the second transfer window in a row, potential late deals could be jeopardised by a change of head coach, and it underlines that no matter how well we prepare, this club seems to have a propensity to self-implode.

I don’t want to start criticising individuals just yet, because we have no idea where the blame, if there is any, should lie. It is all very well saying we that should have tied down Neil to this or that, but if all parties were happy with the rolling arrangement, what could anybody do?

For all we know, that might have been the only way to get him on board in the first place and so a decision was made to see how far it would take us.

If it turns out that Neil wanted more control or to change the structure then that is on him. Our model was hardly a secret and as hard as this is to take right now, I don’t want the club ripping up their plans just for one person. We’ve been there before and it has ended terribly.

Don’t get me wrong, Neil has done an excellent job at Sunderland, and this is a major blow.

He will have his own reasons for leaving, however, and that is his prerogative. The same people that identified him in the first place will now be looking at alternatives, and things have been going brilliantly recently, so I’m hoping we move on quickly.

I support Sunderland, not any individual, and will be backing the Lads against Norwich City just like normal. That is all fans can do whenever things go wrong, and heaven knows we’ve had plenty of practice!

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Derek Carter says...

When I woke up this morning I was expecting the only significant news to be that we’d signed the lad from Brighton, but this came so far out of left field that I had to check whether I was actually awake.

It’s just a surreal situation and whatever happens the feel-good factor will be well and truly dented. If Alex Neil does head off to Stoke it would certainly be a head-scratcher because they aren’t exactly the big step up that a young manager like him should be aspiring to.

If he turns them down he’ll be hammered by some fans as soon as we have an inevitable dip in form.

Personally, I want him to stay for many years to come but I fear the worst, and please spare a thought for young Jewison Bennette. What a great start to his European adventure.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images


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