Last night, Sunderland took the shock decision to part company with manager Tony Mowbray following a run of one win in five which has seen the Black Cats fall outside of the play-off places.
The 60-year-old joined the Wearsider’s in the summer of 2022 shortly after the club were promoted back to the second tier after a four-year absence. He exceeded expectations by guiding the club into the Championship play-offs at the first time of asking, where they were defeated at the semi-final stage by Luton Town.
Rumours of a summer exit followed, but Mowbray continued to lead the team into this season and enjoyed an excellent start which saw them rise as high as fourth before recent form has seen them slip down the table. This ultimately led to the departure of the former West Brom and Middlesbrough boss, with sporting director Kristjaan Speakman saying last night:
“All at SAFC have thoroughly enjoyed working with Tony and he is quite rightly held in high regard by our players and staff, and our supporters.
“After arriving at an uncertain time, he helped guide us to the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs and played an important role in developing our team. This was a difficult decision to make, but we remain loyal to our ambition and our strategy, and felt that now was the right moment to take this step.
“We are now focused on identifying the right candidate and we will continue to support our coaching team and players throughout the interim period.”
Whilst the dust settles at the Stadium of Light, now seems like a good time to look at five potential candidates that Sunderland could look at in the near future:
The former Birmingham City boss is sure to be linked to the role due to the fantastic job he did at St Andrew’s and the nature of his dismissal in October. The West Midlands club were in sixth before his exit and it’s safe to say that the decision to bring in Manchester United and England legend hasn’t gone to plan. They now sit in 15th having won just one of their previous eight outings.
The 44-year-old is widely considered one of the brightest young managers in the English game and he will have no shortage of offers from Championship clubs over the course of the next few months.
Sunderland may need to act quick if this is their preferred route, with league rivals Swansea City also on the hunt for a new manager having also parted company with Michael Duff last night.
It may be coincidence that Sunderland’s decision came on the same day that rumours emerged that Sheffield United were set to sack Paul Heckingbottom after their dreadful start to the Premier League campaign. However, the 46-year-old may not be out of work for long having guided the Blades to a comfortable second-placed finish last season.
It is that know-how of getting out of the division that will be an attractive prospect to many potential suitors, whereas he also achieved promotion from League One with Barnsley in 2016.
Now, this will not be the preferred option, but there if there is one man that knows how to achieve promotion, it is Neil Warnock.
The ex-Leeds United and Middlesbrough boss has tasted success on eight previous occasions, whilst four of these have seen him take teams to the Premier League. Having most recently taken charge of Huddersfield Town, the 75-year-old has revealed his desire to take over a club hoping to at least reach the play-offs and he would surely be interested in a move to the North East should the opportunity arise.
This would only be a short-term option though and may not appeal to Sunderland.
Like Eustace, Schumacher is another young manager who is expected to have a big career. His incredible League One title winning campaign with Plymouth Argyle last season – where the Pilgrims amassed a staggering 101 points – saw him win the Manager of the Season award and his team currently sit in 16th in the Championship.
It seems a matter of time before somebody comes knocking on Plymouth’s door asking to speak to the 39-year-old. Could it be Sunderland?
Left-field choices have been par for the course this season, with Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday amongst others having taken a punt on a relatively unknown manager. Sablé is currently assistant manager of French side Nice, who are coached by Francesco Farioli.
Interestingly, Farioli was linked with a move to the Stadium of Light in the summer whilst previously unattached, but eventually took the reins at the Allianz Riviera. It’s been a phenomenal season thus far, where they sit second in Ligue 1 and just four points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
Sablé – at 43-years-old – may be looking to venture into his first permanent managerial job having coached at various levels in France, including an interim spell at Saint Etienne.