Sunderland next manager odds as assessment delivered on leading candidates

Sunderland are still without a head coach following the sacking of Michael Beale back in February after just twelve games in charge of the Black Cats. Since the 43-year-old was let go from Wearside, the hierarchy are yet to appoint a permanent head coach, as interim boss Mike Dodds continues to take the reins until a new manager is recruited.

Dodds has done a decent job in charge, ensuring the team sees out the season and giving minutes to players who could be important next season, but there is growing clamour on Wearside for the powers that be to identify the future permanent boss before the curtains are drawn on this disappointing campaign.

Here, The Chronicle takes a look at the five bookies’ favourites (according to gambling.com) for the job and assesses whether they could have merit as candidates for the vacant role as Black Cats boss.

Paul Heckingbottom – 4 / 5

Former Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom has floated to the bookies’ current favourite to be the next Sunderland manager. The 46-year-old has been out of work since his dismissal as Blades boss earlier in December, which came after his side were hammered 5-0 in a relegation six-pointer by Burnley, which was their eleventh defeat in fourteen premier league outings and left the Blades languishing at the bottom of the pile.

The Englishman would be a sensible appointment for the Black Cats, given he guided the Blades back to the top flight last term by finishing runners-up to Burnley, and has another promotion under his belt through the play-offs with Barnsley. According to football insider Alan Nixon, Sunderland have “put Heckingbottom at the top of their wanted list”, and given his track record of promotions it would seem to be a safe and sensible bet, yet not a glamorous appointment.

Read more: Sunderland ‘in’ for ex-Arsenal & Chelsea wonderkid Amani Richards ahead of surprise free transfer

Will Still – 7 / 4

Current Reims boss Will Still has been the name on many supporters’ lips even after the sacking of Tony Mowbray and more recently Michael Beale. Given his miraculous rise from a virtual football manager to a real-life elite head coach, the 31-year-old would highlight a serious statement of intent from the Black Cats hierarchy in appointing one of the brightest young coaches in Europe.

The Belgian-English coach has been heavily linked with the role on Wearside after his remarkable work in the French top flight, and there has been clear flirtation on Sunderland’s part in terms of trying to recruit Still in the wake of both sackings this season. Recent reports are suggesting current side Reims – who he guided to a 14-game unbeaten streak when he began his tenure as number one – are preparing for life without the multi-lingual coach which adds further credence to Sunderland’s interest.

His record and credentials in the game at such a young age speak for themself, and would be a fantastic option to aid the many French talents the Black Cats possess to flourish further, while sending a message to the footballing world that Sunderland mean business. But whether it is a financially viable move is another story, as reports in France claim Still has a release clause of over £4.3 million in his Reims deal, which is not set to expire until the summer of 2025.

Danny Rohl – 2 / 1

Sheffield Wednesday head coach Danny Rohl has been heavily linked with the Black Cats throughout this season, with the 34-year-old currently entangled in a fight against relegation with the Owls after taking over as boss in late October with Wednesday winless prior to Rohl taking the reins on October 13.

The German boss has been praised during his six-month spell at Hillsborough for his tactical knowledge and flexibility, employing multiple different formations and set-ups, which would be a benefit to suit Sunderland’s football philosophy. Rohl has performed admirably to keep a Wednesday side ill-equipped to survive in the second tier and who were almost resigned to relegation before his appointment, still in contention to stay up as the season enters the final stages.

Similarly to Still, he is an up-and-coming coach that would work under Sunderland’s hierarchy structure, and would be an exciting appointment for the Wearsiders to pursue if his departure from The Owls is financially viable.

Roy Keane – 7 / 2

Irishman Roy Keane will always be held in the highest record on Wearside for his miraculous efforts in the Black Cats’ remarkable top-flight promotion season of 2006/07, in which the Red Devils legend guided Sunderland’s return to the top flight after taking the reins with the side second bottom of the Championship.

Popular pundit Keane had been linked with the job after Lee Johnson was sacked prior to Alex Neil’s appointment, and Keane has showcased his interest in returning to the game. But given his last roles in football have been as assistants with Ireland, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest, there are doubts as to whether he is tactically knowledgeable to coach in today’s game and as to whether his straight-talking and brash style would fly with the current generation of footballers.

Steve Cooper – 4 / 1

Former Forest boss Steve Cooper was axed back in December after a poor run in the league, with his side having lost five of his last six in charge. Cooper guided Forest back to the top flight in 2022 after their 23-year absence from the Premier League and thus has the knowledge and experience on his CV which suits Sunderland’s objective of promotion in the coming campaign.

Although the Welshman’s time at The City Ground ended in disappointing fashion, his experience in both the Premier League and Championship would be beneficial to guide the current young crop of Sunderland stars back to pushing for promotion. However, the 44-year-old could be reluctant to move back down to the second tier after his time at Forest meaning that the wages he would likely command are going to be out of budget for the Black Cats.

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