Now that Middlesbrough have parted company with Aitor Karanka, Sunderland are the only side in the bottom six that have yet to make a managerial change this season. Is it therefore a coincidence the Black Cats are the team that are adrift at the bottom of the Premier League? Probably not, is the answer.
As other teams manoeuvre themselves for the relegation battle, where does this leave Sunderland?
Well, first of all, given the timing of the change at Boro the Teessiders are likely to benefit from the ‘new manager bounce’, as many clubs do. Unfortunately, for the Black Cats at least, this form may still be in full effect just at the time of the relegation six pointer between the two sides.
However, placing events on Teesside to one side, even those on the periphery at Sunderland can appreciate, repeatedly sacking managers is clearly not a sustainable model for the Wearsiders. Sound logic dictates to do so is sheer madness. In fact they have found this to be the case at their significant cost, both financially and in respect failing to progress.
Yet, ironically, it is quite possibly the only single action that has kept the side in the top flight over recent seasons. A new manager, at just the right time has proven to be a catalyst for a brief upsurge in form and has allowed the team to stagger, however meekly, over the finish line.
The rhetoric from the club is that stability is now a must and you would be hard pressed to find anyone within the fan base who would disagree with that principle. However, stability is surely by definition a ‘state of being stable’. If we follow the pattern of the team’s current decline then being relegated as expected would not seem to meet that description – not by any measure.
As we know, Sunderland’s owner Ellis Short has form for having an itchy trigger finger. His reputation for jettisoning managers precedes him and he has certainly dismissed a few who have been in better positions.
Why has he not sacked David Moyes already you may ask? Has the Texan billionaire all of a sudden changed his mentality or are the reasons likely to be around lack of sufficient funds to pay him off? Most would surely wager on the latter.
Moyes has possibly found to his delight or displeasure – depending upon which day you ask him – that he has arrived at the club just at a time when Short has pulled the purse strings so tight the knot can seemingly no longer be unpicked.
From the owner it feels that a mixture of apathy and lack of money and it is the only saving grace for Moyes at the moment. The cynics would suggest that this is being dressed up as a desire to stabilise the club and that a leopard cannot change their spots. Short has shown his colours too many times on too many occasions to change his approach now. Therefore, surely there are other motivations in play.
By accident or design Moyes is likely to remain at the helm for the foreseeable future. Whether this eventually makes any material difference to the club longer term remains to be seen. By sticking with the Scot, Sunderland have once again gambled their Premier League safety. However, this time – for whatever the reasons – Short has decided to put all his chips down on a different number.