Sunderland’s managerial hunt: Who is in the runnning?

By Alex Kelly

After a frankly miserable 23/24 season replete with underwhelming performances, managerial incompetence and calamities both on and off the pitch, it is evident that SAFC need a new manager to get the side back to winning ways.

A season much like the 22/23 juncture would be preferable: a time when immense performances seemed to flow as young talent blossomed on Wearside, and fans actually enjoyed spending their Saturdays cheering on the Black Cats. Since then, much has changed, clearly exhibiting the fact that a new, competent manager is needed. But who is in the running? … 

Will Still

Will Still (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Orange Pictures)

The most likely candidate according to the bookies (3/1 odds), Still is a poster for young managerial talent, having most recently enjoyed a successful tenure at French side, Reims. After becoming manager of the Ligue 1 side during the 22/23 season, Still comically did not hold a UEFA Pro Licence, a UEFA requirement, meaning Reims was fined €25000 for every match he managed – an indication of his prodigious success.

Only managing three clubs up to now, a move to Sunderland would be the perfect opportunity for the 31-year-old to gain more experience, especially in England; showcasing his skills in the EFL Championship – likely to be his toughest challenge yet. 

A fan favourite, Still also has the benefit of speaking both English and French fluently, making him a perfect fit for Sunderland as he would be able to communicate effectively with the majority of the players, something that previous managers seemed to have struggled with. Having mutually agreed to leave Reims in May, Still is a free agent who is rumoured to be in talks with the club.

Liam Rosenior

Former Hull City manager Liam Rosenior. Photo credit: Alamy

With 5/1 odds, the ex-Hull City man is also a leading candidate in the hunt for the new SAFC manager. Rosenior has proven experience within football, having been at seven different clubs over his playing career including two loan spells, alongside his most recent two-year managerial spell at Hull City, despite only being 39-years-old.

In the 23/24 season, the Englishman led the Tigers to an amicable seventh-place finish, scrutinisingly missing out on the playoffs, an achievement not perceived good enough by the Hull City board, with Rosenior receiving the sack just days after the season had finished.

Currently, without a club Rosenior could be looking to resume his championship endeavour on Wearside, wanting to achieve what he could not at Hull, in getting the side promoted, a goal SAFC supporters desperately share, after a frustrating eight seasons out of the top-flight. 

 Paul Heckingbottom

Former Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Photo credit: Alamy

Currently ranked by the bookies at 7/1, Heckingbottom over 2024 has been a consistent candidate for the Sunderland job, having been sacked by Sheffield United in December 2023, after a dismal start to the Premier League season.

Over his career as a player and manager, the 46-year-old has been at over 14 clubs, making him a highly experienced manager, especially in the EFL; yet his accordant sackings suggest he has an air of inconsistency, a symbol of previous Sunderland managers over the last ten years.

However, despite his reputation as a ‘club-hopper’, there is no denying that the same was said about a certain Tony Mowbray, a fan favourite and arguably the best manager the club had seen in over a decade. If given a chance, Heckingbottom could bring an end to the current poor run of form and earn promotion into the Premier League, as he proved he could do with Sheffield Utd in the 22/23 season.  

With no confirmation on the identity of the future manager on Wearside, much is left to speculation. Yet one thing is drastically clear: a new man is needed sooner rather than later, someone who can hopefully pull the club out of the EFL and retain its former glory in the Premier League.