WITH Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman known to be looking overseas in their search for a new head coach, two French-based candidates currently top the betting markets to be Sunderland’s next boss.

Julien Sable and Will Still have both been heavily linked with the Black Cats in the last 24 hours – so who they are, and why might they appeal to take over at the Stadium of Light?


Born in Marseille, 43-year-old Sable enjoyed a successful playing career in Ligue 1. A midfielder who represented France at Under-21 level, he made more than 300 senior appearances in a decade-long spell at St Etienne before also playing for Lens, Nice and Bastia.

His first coaching role came in the youth set-up at St Etienne, where he managed the Under-19s, and in 2017, he was briefly promoted to the role of interim head coach following the departure of Oscar Garcia.

He spent the next four years working as the assistant to Jean-Louis Gasset at St Etienne, and had another brief caretaker spell in charge in 2021 before returning to a number two role that he performed before leaving the club at the end of the 2022-23 season following it’s relegation to Ligue 2.

He was appointed as head coach of Nice’s B team in December 2022, and was promoted to the role of assistant first-team head coach following the dismissal of Lucien Favre halfway through last season. Sable worked alongside former Middlesbrough midfielder Didier Digard, who led Nice for the second half of last term in an interim role.

Digard left his temporary position this summer, with Nice installing Francesco Farioli as their new boss. Farioli’s name will be familiar to Sunderland supporters as the Italian was touted as a candidate to take over on Wearside towards the end of last season, with the links damaging the relationship between Tony Mowbray and those above him.


Sable is currently employed as Farioli’s assistant, with Nice flying high in second position in the Ligue 1 table, just four points adrift of leaders Paris St Germain.

While Farioli has taken much of the praise for Nice’s success this season, French observers insist it would be wrong to downplay the importance of Sable’s input, particularly on the training ground, where he is regarded as a bright, inventive coach. Having stood in for Digard at press conferences and media interviews last season, Sable is understood to be keen to take on a head coach role of his own.


Born in Belgium to English parents, 31-year-old Still has taken an extremely unorthodox route into football management.

He played semi-professional football in England, but was never really close to securing a professional playing career before he was handed his first coaching job in charge of Preston’s Under-14s.

That stirred his interest in coaching, along with his enjoyment of playing Football Manager and Championship Manager, and he completed a football studies course at Myerscough College in Preston before moving back to Belgium.

“Football Manager gave me that impetus to want to set up a team,” said Still, in an interview with PC Gamer. “I was alright at football, but FM allowed me to have that glimpse of what it actually was like to manage a team. I actually think people that play Football Manager understand the game a bit more. You’ve got to go into a lot of detail to win things.”

Back in his native Belgium, Still worked as a video analyst at Sint-Truiden and Lierse, and in 2014, he was appointed as the caretaker manager of Lierse despite being just 24. He was briefly installed as full-time boss, but was forced to relinquish the position because he did not have the required UEFA coaching qualifications.

He took over at Beerschot in 2021, before moving to France to join Ligue 1 side Reims as assistant coach. He remains in charge at Reims, where he has guided his current employers to fifth in the Ligue 1 table in the current campaign.

While his unusual back story might have created a few headlines, Still’s achievements with Reims mean he has quickly established himself as one of the most highly-rated and coveted young coaches in Europe.

He is also regarded as an astute and talented man-manager, feeling his youth enables him to strike up a connection with his players that older coaches might struggle to replicate.

“I’m Will, not coach or gaffer,” he said, in an interview with the Daily Mail. “I just want everyone to be themselves, and I’ll be myself first. They (the players) put music on that I listen to. They’re talking about things I’ve watched on TV or done with my mates. I’m not going to dive into the conversation because that’s their life – but I understand it.”