Sunderland Identify Primary Managerial Target

Sunderland have identified former Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom as their primary target, according to journalist Alan Nixon.

After beginning the campaign full of optimism after reaching the Championship play-offs last season, the Black Cats are now already planning for August. They made the decision to part company with Tony Mowbray December, gambling with the appointment of Michael Beale.

The ex-Queens Park Rangers boss lasted just 12 games before he too found himself out of a job, leaving the club in February. Mike Dodds was installed as interim manager for the third time in his career, although this time until the end of the season.

The 37-year-old had to wait a while for his first win. His first three points arrived on Good Friday when goals from Adil Aouchiche and Jobe Bellingham secured a 2-0 victory over Cardiff City. Despite that, their continued poor form means that any chance of a top six finish remains highly unlikely.

Sunderland have deliberately taken their time in recruiting Beale’s successor as they look to make the right appointment to steer the club into the future. A number of names have been linked to the position, including former managers Alex Neil and Roy Keane, Will Still and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

According to Nixon, they are keen to talk to Paul Heckingbottom, who was in line for the job after the departure of Mowbray. The 46-year-old was dismissed by the Blades in December, although still holds a big reputation having secured promotion to the Premier League last season.

The Wearsiders sporting director Kristjaan Speakman issued an update last month on the ongoing managerial search, with minutes from a supporters collective confirming the news:

“KS explained that the Club has confidence in the team and the team behind the team.

“There are players returning over the coming weeks and although it’s a difficult moment, we need to be together. He referenced the exceptional support at Southampton and believes fans will maintain a positive focus towards the team. On the Head Coach search, he added that the club consciously had a period of reflection after Michael Beale’s departure and are now engaging in meetings with prospective Head Coaches. This will flow into formal interviews and a decision.”

Nixon’s report concludes that Sunderland are looking for their next boss to fall in line with the club’s way of working, where they are keen to keep a number of current staff within the coaching set-up whilst also promoting players from the youth team.

Writer’s View

A number of names continue to be leaked to the media, which is being done very deliberately. After getting the previous appointment so very wrong, Sunderland are keen to avoid the same mistake again. In taking their time, this gives them the opportunity to gauge public reaction to any reports.

Heckingbottom could well be a smart move for the Wearsiders. He has experience of getting out of the division and there were many who though his dismissal by Sheffield United was harsh, despite their poor start to life in the Premier League. He could be the man to take the Black Cats back to the top tier after a seven-year absence.

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