It is now more than two-and-a-half weeks since Sunderland sacked Simon Grayson, and the club are still searching for a new boss. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson assesses the leading candidates still in the running for the manager’s job at the Stadium of Light


CHRIS COLEMAN

The Northern Echo:

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The Wales boss shot to the top of the betting on Thursday after news emerged that Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain had been in touch to discuss his club’s managerial vacancy.

Coleman is interested in a possible move to Wearside, although he is also still embroiled in ongoing contractual discussions with the Welsh FA. Having led his country to their first appearance at a major finals for more than half-a-century last summer, he accepts he will find it hard to walk away from his current role.

That said, however, he is keen to return to club management at some stage, having previously led Fulham and Coventry City in this country and Real Sociedad and Greek side AEL abroad.

A talented defender who spent the bulk of his playing career with Swansea, Blackburn and Fulham, Coleman cut his managerial teeth at Craven Cottage having first been appointed to Fulham’s backroom staff under Jean Tigana.

He led Fulham to ninth in the Premier League before being dismissed in the following campaign, and lasted just two years at Coventry before he was sacked with the Sky Blues in the bottom half of the Championship.

A respected man manager, he is clearly well liked by the current Welsh squad. However, should his struggles at club level prior to taking charge of his country be a cause for concern?


ALLY McCOIST

The Northern Echo:

Of the leading candidates still in the running for the Sunderland job, McCoist is the only one to have publicly confirmed his desire to take over at the Stadium of Light. While others have questioned the wisdom of joining a club at the foot of the Championship, McCoist has described it as his “dream job”.

In part, that reflects the 55-year-old’s desperation to return to work after spending the last three years without a managerial role. He has not been employed in the dug-out since his dismissal at Rangers in 2014, and is running out of options for a return to the frontline.

He clearly retains a strong affection for Sunderland though, having spent two seasons as a player at Roker Park in the early 1980s, and his upbeat, bubbly personality could be just what the club needs given the air of despondency that has descended in the last 18 months.

Is he good enough though? He was a fine player with both Rangers and Scotland, but moved into management at a time when Rangers’ financial problems had seen them demoted to Scottish football’s bottom tier.

He won promotion from Divisions Three and Two, although it can be argued that was hardly difficult given the size of the clubs Rangers were facing. He was unable to take the Ibrox club back into the Scottish Premier League though, and that ultimately cost him his job.

Many Sunderland fans would be unhappy with his appointment, as they would regard him as part of the ‘McMafia’ being assembled by Bain. If other candidates drop away though, he could find himself leading the running.


ROBBIE STOCKDALE

The Northern Echo:

The current caretaker has consistently shied away from discussing his suitability for a permanent role, and those close to Stockdale have questioned whether he actually wants to take over as manager. Given he will be leading the club in tomorrow’s game with Millwall though, such an eventuality cannot be ruled out.

Football is littered with examples of caretakers being shuffled into a full-time role, and Sunderland have recent experience of making such a move. Ricky Sbragia was supposed to be a short-term appointment after Roy Keane left, but ended up being offered a permanent position a month-or-so later. He eventually stood down five months later after securing Premier League survival.

Could a similar thing happen with Stockdale? It is not out of the question, although much will depend on how Sunderland perform in tomorrow’s game with Millwall, and potentially also Tuesday’s visit to Aston Villa. End the home hoodoo tomorrow, and Stockdale might suddenly look a much more desirable option.

The 37-year-old has some frontline experience, having led Sunderland in last season’s Checkatrade Trophy, and has earned respect for his work as a coach since stepping up to the Black Cats’ senior group.

He would be the cheapest option available to Bain, but should his complete lack of managerial experience in the Championship rule him out of the running? Also, would he be strong enough to deal with the powerful characters within the Sunderland dressing room, or possess a big enough personality to transform the prevailing mood at the Stadium of Light?


PETER REID

The Northern Echo: TOUGH TASK: Peter Reid (left) and Jimmy Phillips couldn't arrest Wanderers' slide

The former Sunderland boss was mentioned as a serious contender in the immediate aftermath of Simon Grayson’s departure, but appeared to have slipped out of the picture as Martin Bain initially looked elsewhere.

However, with Michael O’Neill and Paul Heckingbottom no longer in the running, Reid now finds himself back in the mix. Might he be the man to inspire a radical reversal of Sunderland’s fortunes and revive some of the impetus he generated in the 1990s?

Judged purely on emotion, it is easy to see why the Sunderland hierarchy might be swayed by the prospect of reappointing Reid. He was hugely popular as he led the Black Cats into the upper echelons of the Premier League, and would immediately lift some of the gloom that has worsened in the last few weeks.

He knows what is required to get Sunderland going, and could potentially appoint someone like Kevin Phillips to work under him in a coaching capacity.

However, the harsh reality is that Reid’s only involvement in English football in the last 12 years was a 14-month spell in charge of Plymouth Argyle that ended with him being dismissed with the club sitting at the very foot of the Football League.

He was a disaster at Leeds United after leaving Wearside in 2002, and was last seen managing Mumbai City in the Indian Premier League. Having turned 61 in June, is he not yesterday’s man?