Sam Allardyce is the most attractive name linked to the Sunderland job, but his availability is unclear…
Sunderland have reacted quickly to matchday 29’s double disaster of a 4-0 home defeat to Aston Villa and slipping to within a point of the relegation zone by sacking Gus Poyet.
It is a dismissal which will surprise nobody: they have won just once in 12 Premier League games, scored once in the most recent five and Poyet’s relationship with the fans had been severely damaged, while they are in to 2.77/4 to be relegated from a high of 12.0.
What isn’t so clear is who they will turn to next, with there being three initial theories.
One is that Stadium of Light employees Kevin Ball and/or Paul Bracewell will be placed in charge until a more appealing long-term candidate becomes available at the end of the season, though their sudden proximity to the bottom three potentially renders that too risky.
Ball was powerless to prevent them going down when appointed caretaker in bleaker circumstances in 2005/06. He enters the market at 9.617/2, with Bracewell 6.25/1.
The 2.526/4 favourite is Dick Advocaat, whose 35-year managerial career ensures that he has Ball trumped for experience. The Dutchman is one of the few established options instantly available having left Serbia in November, but he has achieved little at club level since leaving Zenit in 2009.
The third and most interesting contender is Sam Allardyce at 6.611/2. The West Ham boss isn’t enormously popular on Wearside despite playing for Sunderland between 1980 and 1981, yet he has never been relegated from the Premier League and is by far the most accomplished of the frontrunners.
The assumption is that he wouldn’t be able to switch sides until the summer, when his Irons contract, which seems increasingly unlikely to be renewed, expires.
However, West Ham appear safe on 39 points and Allardyce’s fan approval rating is falling again, so the prospect of pocketing a bit of money for an employee that they are expected to lose for nothing in a few months is at least worthy of consideration by David Sullivan and company.
The possibility bears a similarity to how Newcastle acted when Crystal Palace moved for Alan Pardew, almost accelerating the inevitable, but the fact that the teams meet at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday – with West Ham 1.910/11 favourites – is perhaps unhelpful.
Other managers being mentioned are Michael Laudrup at 13.012/1 (though he seemingly snubbed the chance to go to QPR), Glenn Hoddle at 14.5n/a (very much the Alan Curbishley of 2014/15 in featuring in every market) and Harry Redknapp at 16.015/1, despite his knees supposedly forcing him to hobble away from QPR last month.
For those keeping score, this is the fourth successive campaign that Sunderland have made a mid-season managerial change. The good news is that Martin O’Neill, Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet all enjoyed a triumphant initial impact. The problem has been the way that things soured dramatically after the first few months on every occasion.