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Sunderland Unveil New Head Coach Michael Beale

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Sunderland are embodying the changing role of the modern football boss

“Appointing someone as either a manager or a head coach has very different connotations these days, and Sunderland are moving in one clear direction”, writes Paddy Hollis.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In recent years, newly-appointed Sunderland bosses have been given the title of ‘head coach’. We don’t appoint managers these days, and we haven’t done so for some time, as a result of the development of the model we’re working under.

The last traditional ‘manager’ at Sunderland was Phil Parkinson, who left Wearside after arguably one of the worst stints in charge in living memory, and it was fitting that the maverick Lee Johnson was given the title of head coach when he arrived.

Michael Beale becomes the fourth boss of the Kyril Louis-Dreyfus/Kristjaan Speakman era and one who, judging by early indications, is set to embrace the concept of being a head coach more firmly than any of his predecessors.

There’s a distinct difference between being a head coach and a manager at a football club in 2023, and Sunderland is one of the clubs where you’ll know the difference.

Sunderland vs Huddersfield Town Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The separation of coaching and recruitment has been something of a success at the Stadium of Light in the last three years.

Working as a separate entity from the coaching staff, the recruitment team has unearthed players such as Ross Stewart, Jack Clarke, and Trai Hume, and so allowing them to keep doing what they’re doing should never be a hard decision.

A lot of the criticism surrounding Beale seems to stem from his influence on transfers at QPR and Rangers.

We’ve appointed him based on his experience of coaching at big European football clubs and as someone who’ll leave recruitment in the hands of those who’ve done so successfully thus far. Pairing these two factors together, combined with his attraction to the hierarchy makes more sense.

The terms ‘head coach’ and ‘manager’ have different connotations in 2023, and they paint a very different picture of what’s expected from the people at the helm.

The phrase ‘head coach’ sounds dynamic and hints at someone who looks at the data of the game and not just what happens during ninety minutes on a football pitch. In other words, it’s precisely what Sunderland are these days.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jess Hornby/Getty Images

More and more clubs are opting for the sporting director/head coach structure and with the teams at the top of the pyramid only getting richer, it seems to be the best way forward.

Sunderland aren’t struggling for money and on the pitch, we’re being run as well as we’ve been for some time. Developing the younger players while also gradually progressing as a team and not breaking the bank is a recipe for sustainability that three years ago, we wouldn’t have dreamed of.

Beale has made it clear that he wants to be at Sunderland to coach a group of footballers and not manage the whole club. With that in mind, making sure he’s fully onboard with how the club operates in 2023 was always going to be the key to our next appointment.

Alex Neil and Tony Mowbray were invested as head coaches initially, but eventually, their managerial instincts shone through and frustration at not being fully involved as a rounded leader of the club on and off the pitch led to them being shown the door.

Beale has the advantage of having a strong CV as a coach, even if his role as manager at other clubs has been his undoing.

Working within the system now in place at Sunderland, it feels as though he’ll be far better suited.


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