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It’s *that* time of year again – the days are getting shorter, the cold is rolling in, and Christmas music can (already!) be heard in The Bridges.
Yep, it’s November. And at the top of everyone’s wish list? A shiny new manager. Specifically, one that is already a big name at the club.
But they say “never meet your heroes”. So why should we want one to manage us? Surely we need an Enforcer, not an Enhancer? But I’ll get onto that in a minute.
When he’s not scoring goals at the Stadium of Light, Bolton Wanderers midfielder Karl Henry likes to kick back with a nice glass of tomfoolery:
“Every time I go to Sunderland I think the same thing – it’s a toxic atmosphere for the home team. . . I wouldn’t want to be a player here with those fans.”
The little rascal.
But his words have left me (and I imagine some of you) a bit uneasy. Because deep down, there’s some truth there. Don’t get me wrong - we know that the club’s fans are outstanding (if you don’t believe me, see the numbers of away day travelling support). They can genuinely be the difference between a grizzly defeat and hard-fought victory.
But, c’mon, only when there’s something to work with.
It’s time to stop hoping the supporters will suddenly forget nearly 10 years of decay and take responsibility to kickstart the team’s season. While urging the fans to “Keep The Faith” and encouraging the now ex-manager to remain positive sounded like good things on paper, trying to make the supporters happy is putting the cart before the horse and just doesn’t work.
The fact is that while there are hundreds of ways of playing the beautiful game, there are only two types of managers; Enforcers who drag a group of players kicking and screaming and turn them into a team, and Enhancers who then gets that side to operate at a higher level.
Yep, you know where I’m going with this – the fans enhance, but someone needs to step in and put the team together in the first place.
The powers-that-be need to find a manager that compliments the supporters. An Enhancer just won't work, David Moyes being the perfect example. While a squad rebuild seemed on the cards, he instead tried to get the team to make minor adjustments and play with more "realism". This isn't a case of positivity vs. negativity, either. As Grayson proved, you can't polish a... y’know?
Nope, what this club needs is an Enforcer - someone with enough of an ego to put a rocket up the back of those who need it, and cast any dead wood onto the bonfire (yes, I’ve gone from Christmas metaphors to Bonfire Night, just roll with it).
In short, we need someone who can get Sunderland to make waves again instead of simply riding them.
As I write, Kevin Phillips is one of the hot favourites to take over and I'm sorry but it's got disappointment plastered all over it. Sure, it's the reunion we all want to see, but the club would be gaining an inexperienced manager and Super Kev would more than likely be losing a reputation. As he told The Guardian in 2015 about turning down a potential move as a player:
“I think it’s the best decision I made. . . If I’d gone back and not done myself justice, I couldn’t be spoken about in the same breath that I am [now].”
There’s too much on the line for club and coach. Can we really expect someone with so little experience to tell Lee Cattermole he’s not working hard enough? To his face?! Heroes have reputations to maintain, and upsetting the status quo at a club (no matter how dire the situation) puts a blemish against their name.
When Super Kev gains in confidence and knows what type of manager he is, we can be optimistic about a return to Wearside. Until then, the club should look for an anti-hero to shake things up and not give a damn about what we think of him.