Pete Sixsmith mulls over the two most-mentioned candidates for the managerial seat left vacant by Steve Bruce’s dismissal …
So, the inevitable has happened and Steve Bruce has left the club. I was in no doubt after Saturday that he was as close as close could be to the sack; when it didn’t come on Monday, I thought he had been thrown a lifeline, but once again, I was wrong.
The owner has done the correct thing as there was little possibility of Bruce retrieving his relationship with the crowd. Three lengthy periods of turgid football and poor results, interspersed with the odd sparkling display, had done for him and it was better to put this horse out of its misery now.
It has been suggested that the sacking was delayed as a mark of respect to Gary Speed and this may well have played a part in it. It is more likely that the club were sounding out potential candidates before dispensing with his services. The last thing we wanted was to be scrambling around for a manager with two vital games coming up.
The fact that Eric Black has stayed indicates to me that an appointment is imminent. He will probably leave as soon as the new man arrives, the unfortunate thing being that we will also probably lose the excellent Keith Bertschin, who has been a real pleasure to watch as reserve team boss. He is the antithesis of Bruce – calm, thoughtful and full of encouragement.
The two prime candidates are Martin O’Neill and Mark Hughes. Both are available and both would probably relish managing an established Premier League club with strong support and strong potential. Had we retained Bruce and our Premier League status at the end of the season, I would have gone for a younger manager, but this is no time to be taking steps into the unknown, so the likes of Adkins, Lambert and Poyet have missed their opportunity to manage the greatest club in the world.
So, which one do we choose? It’s a bit like Nursey in Blackadder 2 offering Pony Club Queen Elizabeth “right breasty dumpling or left breasty dumpling”. Both are attractive propositions, but there is little real difference between the two.
As I drove home from a postponed game at Bedlington last night, my thoughts fluctuated between the two. Both have a good record in management, both have managed more successful clubs than we have been for umpty dozen years and both are available.
Michael Gray gave a glowing testimonial for Hughes, saying that he would be an ideal fit, while the always excellent and totally reliable Radio 5Live journo Pat Murphy said O’Neill would be very, very interested in taking over and would not necessarily want a huge pot of money to spend on players.
My pal Pete Horan plumps for O’Neill arguing that he is the living embodiment of Brian Clough and a man who is “a perfect fit for Sunderland. No doubt there are others out there who would speak as well for Hughes.
A new era begins. The manager has left, welcome to the new one. We must hope that we will not be echoing The Who’s words “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”