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Sunderland should consider adjusting the parameters in the search for a new head coach



Several hundred miles away, Mark Robins and Coventry City were on their way to stunning Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, where they also secured their spot in the FA Cup semi-finals, while we were getting ready to take on QPR at home on Saturday.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Coventry City - Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final

Ellis Simms put the Sky Blues ahead 2-1 going into injury time, and Haji Wright’s incredible winner, set up by the former Sunderland loanee, sent the supporters into raptures and encouraged the Robins to celebrate wholeheartedly, if scaring a ball boy in the process wasn’t exactly appropriate.

It was hard not to feel respect for a proper, no-nonsense leader in Robins, a man whose reputation in the Midlands could scarcely be better, watching those sights on the TV in the concourse at the north-west corner.

In fact, I can’t help but believe that someone with Michael Beale’s caliber would make the ideal supervisor as we work to find a long-term replacement.

His team plays good, aggressive football, and his granite-tough demeanor makes him a great operator under pressure. He has upgraded players like Simms, Wright, and Callum O’Hare. City also appears poised for a top six push.

In the interim, we are attempting to come together in support of Mike Dodds.

It’s not an easy challenge, even though Saturday’s draw ended a terrible run of losses, but with eight games remaining in his temporary management, maybe we can find a way to conclude the season safely in mid-table. That’s when the real work starts.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship

First of all, the notion that Dodds is being permanently trained for this position should be rejected out of hand. He lacks experience, authority, and tactical knowledge. Like Michael Beale, he might be useful as a member of a larger coaching squad, but as a stand-alone? Ignore it.

The second point is that there is rising support for expanding the search parameters in order to find a coach who can achieve what we all want: promotion to the Premier League and subsequent establishment as a competitive team in the division.

One of the buzzwords of the summer is “flexibility,” and I believe that applies to both our hiring process and the head coaching role.

It is time to polish, develop, and fine-tune the current framework rather than throwing it in the trash with other “great but ultimately unsuccessful Sunderland concepts.”

Sunderland v Swansea City - Sky Bet Championship

If people could put aside their egos and make accommodations, we ought to be able to draw in a player who can lead the team out of its present rut, aim for the top of the league, and keep an eye on the progress of our young players.

If Kristjaan Speakman stays in his current position through the conclusion of the season, he must acknowledge that mistakes have been made and may need to change the way he approaches appointments in order to supervise continued development.

Prospective head coaches may be observing events in the Stadium of Light right now and thinking, “Hmm.” Excellent team, fervent supporters, and immense potential, but I believe I’ll pass because there are several problems that could cause me problems.

If our club is perceived by the outside world as an organization in disarray, then this is all our fault, needs to be fixed quickly, and can only be achieved by a great finish to the season. Some introspection on the part of those in charge will lead to this, as will decisive action.

Someone like Steve Cooper, for instance, would not suffer under the strain of expectation on Wearside, and he has successfully led Nottingham Forest back to the top division. He checks a lot of our boxes.

Nottingham Forest v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Here’s where we run into trouble, though: despite his impressive World Cup record, our fairly rigid mindset is unlikely to make the seasoned and authoritative leader leap into line.

Speakman is a gifted person with a respectable strike percentage when it comes to head coaching jobs. Even though he obviously has a lot of authority, it shouldn’t take precedence over what’s best for the club’s long-term goals.

After an unsuccessful process, he publicly supported Beale, appointed him, and then was left to pick up the pieces when things went wrong. As appealing as it may be to pursue the option of looking for a head coach who is available and free, we must demonstrate that we are willing to make concessions and widen the search in order to draw in the ideal candidate.

I will always think that Sunderland AFC is a great place to lead, but this season’s changes in the dugout have really slowed us down.

We must make sure that the new manager is a true improvement over the outgoing one, that he is allowed some freedom to leave his mark on the team, and that he can get things back on track following the disastrous 2023–2024 campaign.



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