Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Next Boss Needs to Purge Squad; Sunderland's Next Manager Will Have to Be a Wheeler-Dealer with a Feel for Man-Management, Stuart Rayner Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Next Boss Needs to Purge Squad; Sunderland's Next Manager Will Have to Be a Wheeler-Dealer with a Feel for Man-Management, Stuart Rayner Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

THE next manager of Sunderland will inherit an entirely different club to the one Roy Keane took charge of a little over two years ago.

In August 2006 the Black Cats were a dispirited, disorganised unit continuing the downward spiral of their previous record-breakingly awful Premier League season into the Championship. A managerless summer had unsurprisingly made recruitment near impossible and morale was at rock bottom.

Their position in the league table and the run of form they are on may not look too pretty, but thanks to Keane and the profile he brought to the Stadium of Light, the Wearsiders are once again a Premier League outfit, with a squad packed with the calibre of players they had hitherto been unable to attract. In fact, a lack of players will be the least of the new manager's problems. Too many, though, will be a conundrum.

The first thing the new boss must do is to sift through the army of squad members he has at his disposal and decide by the end of January which to keep and which to try and move on.

But if the club has changed during Keane's tenure, the economic landscape has altered every bit as dramatically in the last couple of months. Whereas twoand-a-quarter years ago, the Sunderland job was about as appealing as selling freezers in the Antarctic, now it should be hotly contested.

Niall Quinn has demonstrated he is a chairman who stays loyal to his managers - even on Wednesday he was trying to persuade Keane not to quit despite hearing the cacophony of boos directed at him by supporters days earlier - and one who backs his support up with hard cash. But even Ellis Short, the reclusive American multi-millionaire now bankrolling the Black Cats, will not have been untouched by the credit crunch and unlike his predecessor, the new manager may have to face financial reality.

The day before his 100th and last match in charge, Keane categorically stated there would be no additions to his 51-man first-team squad in the January transfer window. Every manager likes to stamp his authority on a club with new signings but Quinn can quite legitimately ask that for everyone who comes in, two or three go out. Sell to buy should replace blank cheques as the club's new transfer policy.

Keane's habit of acquiring players, losing faith in them, then being unable to sell them, left the Black Cats with an unhealthily bloated squad. All managers like having plenty of options, but there are limits. Even with a plethora of players on loan (there are 12 playing away from the Stadium of Light at present) Sunderland's squad is too large to manage, too large for morale and too large even to keep all its members match-fit. It was a mistake Keane made during his first season on Wearside, admitted, then repeated.

The new man will surely recognise this but as custodian of the club's financial future, Quinn will reiterate the point. …

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