SUNDERLAND are searching for their third permanent manager of the last 13 months in the wake of Phil Parkinson’s dramatic dismissal on Sunday evening.

Who are the leading candidates to take over at the Stadium of Light – and what are their major strengths and weaknesses?


The Northern Echo: Gus Poyet

Pros: The Uruguayan knows Sunderland inside-out, having managed the club for 18 months between the autumn of 2013 and the spring of 2015. His time on Wearside was reasonably successful, with the highlight coming courtesy of a Wembley appearance in the League Cup final. He would be a high-profile appointment capable of lifting a club that has fallen flat, and is a close associate of Sunderland’s prospective new majority shareholder, Juan Sartori. He has recently said he would be keen to return to the Stadium of Light.

Cons: His time on Wearside ended messily, with the fans memorably turning on him during an FA Cup defeat at Bradford City. While he has managed in some of Europe’s leading leagues, his only experience of life in England’s third tier was with Brighton almost a decade ago. Given the EFL’s salary-cap restrictions, his opportunities to make transformative changes in January will be extremely limited. Would he really sign up for the long haul in League One?

Current odds: 10-11


The Northern Echo: Huddersfield manager Danny Cowley is ready to resume training

Pros: Cowley, who tends to work in a managerial set-up with his brother Nicky, established his reputation as an upwardly-mobile coach during his time with Lincoln City. During his three years in charge at Sincil Bank, he guided Lincoln to promotions from both the Conference and League Two, playing a brand of football that was widely regarded as progressive and exciting. His appointment would transform Sunderland’s playing style, and he has a track record of developing young players.

Cons: Things did not go to plan in Cowley’s most recent managerial position as he was dismissed after just 12 months in charge of Huddersfield Town. The Terriers scrambled to safety in the Championship under his control last season, but his stint at the John Smith’s Stadium was generally viewed as a failure. Lincoln was a good fit for the Cowley brothers – would they be out of their depth at a club like Sunderland, where the pressure would be on from the start?

Current odds: 11-4


The Northern Echo: Wigan manager Paul Cook says his team will “give it a go” against Manchester City (Anthony Devlin, PA)

Pros: Cook boasts extensive experience of life in the lower-leagues, and has his supporters amongst the Sunderland hierarchy as he was on the shortlist that was compiled in the wake of Jack Ross’ dismissal just over a year ago. He has won promotions with Chesterfield and Portsmouth, and also led Wigan Athletic to the League One title. He is available and would almost certainly slip seamlessly into life in the third tier.

Cons: Having opted not to appoint Cook when they went for Parkinson last autumn, what will the Sunderland hierarchy think has changed in the last 12 months? Parkinson was supposed to be a ‘safe pair of hands’ – would Cook’s appointment result in more of the same, with the experienced boss being happy to try to scrap his way out of League One? It is hard to imagine the fans being especially excited if he was to get the job.

Current odds: 10-3


The Northern Echo: Nigel Pearson is attempting to steer Watford to safety

Pros: Appointing Pearson would be a statement of intent given his extensive experience at Premier League level. The 57-year-old was a success at Leicester, keeping the Foxes up from an unpromising position and laying the foundations for their title triumph, and is known for being a no-nonsense figure who is not afraid of confrontation. Is he just what is needed to whip Sunderland’s underperforming players into shape?

Cons: Pearson's last involvement in the third tier came more than a decade ago with Leicester, and his most recent posting, at Watford, was a hardly a success, with the Hornets suffering relegation from the Premier League on his watch. He would almost certainly be an expensive option, and given the financial pressures on all EFL clubs at the moment, it is far from certain whether Sunderland’s owners could make the sums work. Would his abrasive approach work with League One players - and would he want to manage in the division?

Current odds: 12-1


The Northern Echo: HEADING IN? Kevin Phillips is linked with being part of the new coaching staff at Wanderers

Pros: Phillips is routinely linked with the Sunderland job when it comes up, and there is no doubt that the former striker’s legendary status as a player would make him an extremely popular appointment with the fans. The Black Cats have tried just about everything in the last few seasons – might it be time to roll the dice and go for someone who will change the narrative at a stroke? While he has no managerial experience, Phillips has worked as a coach in recent years.

Cons: As a complete managerial novice, would Phillips be capable of dealing with the pressures that would be piled on him from the outset with Sunderland struggling in eighth position in the League One table? He has been out of work since leaving Stoke’s coaching staff in January 2019, and his appointment would represent a huge gamble? Can the Black Cats afford to take such a risk given this is already their third season in the third tier?

Current odds: 20-1