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We ought to expect the unexpected with Sunderland’s choice of new head coach!

“The list of potential replacements for Tony Mowbray was always going to raise eyebrows, but it should come as no surprise,” writes Paddy Hollis.

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images


It’s been mere days since Tony Mowbray was relieved of his duties as Sunderland head coach, and since the surprise announcement on Monday evening, there have been several names flashed linked with the job.

They’re names which few of us might’ve heard of before, but in many ways, this is exactly what we should’ve seen coming. Sunderland’s next head coach will be likely someone we’ve heard little to nothing about, and it’s what ‘the model’ has forecast for us.

Stade Reims’ boss Will Still is a name that the ‘Football Manager’ loyalists out there will recognize.

He rose to fame on the back of a superb unbeaten run with the French club last season, and his tactical approach and way of coaching his players makes him an obvious top candidate for the Stadium of Light hot seat.

Stade de Reims v Torino FC - Friendly match Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

The speculation around Nice’s assistant coach represents an even deeper dive into data-driven football, in the shape of man who could’ve been our own assistant coach if Francesco Farioli had been given the top job on Wearside in the summer.

Julien Sablé has plenty of coaching experience but if chosen as Mowbray’s replacement, this would be his first in a leading role. Several bookies seem to think he’s the current favourite, but time will soon tell.

The most recent name to be thrown into the ring, IFK Värnamo boss Kim Hellberg, is rumoured to have held talks with Kyril Louis-Dreyfus.

The thirty five-year-old has built up a good reputation for himself in his home country and making his first venture into Europe with a data driven, ‘turbo-nerd’ - loving Sunderland AFC wouldn’t be a complete surprise. However, what would be to many fans is Hellberg himself, as he’s not necessarily a familiar name to Sunderland fans.

These three options are aged thirty one, thirty five, and forty three.

They’re data-driven candidates who seem to fit exactly what you’d expect Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman to want in a head coach, and this is key, because the the next appointment for Dreyfus will be someone he wants, and not someone brought in to tackle a specific situation.

Stade de Reims v AS Saint-Etienne - Ligue 1 Uber Eats Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Alex Neil was drafted in to get us promoted, Tony Mowbray was the appointment made to keep us up, and it feels as though we’re at the stage in the process where the next man in the dugout will be tasked with turning us into a side that fully belongs in and around the top six, even if this stretches into next season.

I had a strong feeling even before Mogga was shown the door that his successor wouldn’t be English. The club’s hierarchy have taken a young and international approach to recruitment in players, so it’s logical to assume this is the way we’ll go with a head coach.

The new man, whoever he is, will be essentially unknown.

That’s just how the club is operating at the moment, and the days of pining for tired names who’ve constantly failed around the football league are over for Sunderland, and I for one am absolutely delighted.

The prospect of just who the new man might be, and the fact we’ll know little about them, is exciting.

Some of our players were unknown before they made the move to Sunderland, and now they’ve become prominent Championship footballers with them all only looking in one direction.

A head coach following this same ‘model’ (a cursed word) could be a big step forward for Sunderland.

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