I talked about whether Sunderland would get dragged into the relegation zone in Thursday’s article.
Yesterday’s 1-0 home defeat to champions-elect Manchester United left the Black Cats just a point above the drop zone. The defeat cost boss Martin O’Neill his job.
The decision to sack the Ulsterman really did come as a surprise, despite Sunderland’s recent slump in form.
O’Neill was seen as a saviour when he arrived at the club and replaced the unpopular Steve Bruce.
Wigan and Aston Villa are just a point behind the side from the north east, but crucially both Sunderland’s rivals have games in-hand. Villa’s game in-hand comes against Liverpool today and the Villans could move above the Black Cats.
Sunderland are really starting to look like they are losing hope. Usually a team gets dragged into the relegation battle late-on in the season and this campaign it’s Sunderland.
The biggest problem that Sunderland have at the moment is that they don’t look like a goal threat at all. I mentioned this in my article a few days ago. Top scorer Steven Fletcher has been ruled out for the rest of the season and that could be the deciding factor in Sunderland’s season.
Danny Graham has now made seven appearances and hasn’t scored for the Black Cats. The problem lies with the lack of chances created from midfield.
Martin O’Neill had been at Sunderland for 16 months and underachieved really. Sunderland should be sitting comfortably in midtable and not even be talking about getting dragged into the relegation zone.
People will say that O’Neill should have been given more time, but he has spent £33million since the summer and relegation could be the clubs only reward. O’Neill’s stint at Sunderland may also have damaged O’Neill’s reputation as a boss.
Current favourite for the job seems to be the charismatic, but combustible Paulo di Canio. The controversial Italian did a fantastic job at Swindon, leading the Robins to promotion to League One.
This season Swindon are challenging for promotion again, but Di Canio quit as boss due to difficulties behind the scenes at the County Ground. He definitely has the personality to turn things around in a short period, but lacks the managerial experience at the top level.
One of the other favourites for the job appears to be former-Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren. The ex-England boss enjoyed mixed fortunes at Boro with one of the high points being reaching the UEFA Cup final.
McLaren went on to manage England and have success in Dutch football with FC Twente. Since winning the Eredivisie with the provincial club he has endured a miserable spell in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg and an unsuccessful second stint at Twente.
I’m not so sure that he would be that popular an appointment with the fans considering his failures so far in his career.
Former-QPR boss Mark Hughes is also believed to be in the running for the position. I can’t see how Hughes would be an improvement on O’Neill. Last season QPR survived relegation by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the season.
This season Hughes was sacked after enduring the worse start to a Premier League season in the history of the club. When he left the Hoops were stranded at the bottom of the table and they struggling with a massive wage bill and players they cannot move on.
Hughes has enjoyed relative success at the likes of Blackburn and Fulham, but it has taken him along time to get his ideas across to the players. Sunderland needs somebody that will have an instant effect on the team.
Italian boss Roberto Di Matteo came in as an emergency boss at Chelsea last season and did a pretty good job winning the Champions League against all odds. He was living on borrowed time this season though and lost his job after a poor run of form.
His only other top flight managerial experience was with West Brom, where he was also dismissed after a poor run of form.
I don’t know who the right man for the job is, but history shows that replacing a manager at this time of the season really doesn’t end well. Whoever takes the reins at the Stadium of Light will have a difficult task on their hands lifting everybody.
There now seems to be a doom and gloom around the place that will be hard to lift and the Black Cats have a difficult run-in into the end of the season. The situation doesn’t look good for Sunderland and it will now be difficult for the Black Cats to survive this season.
Who will be the next Sunderland boss?