Could Michael O’Neill or Heck­ing­bot­tom trans­fer suc­cess to ail­ing Sun­der­land?

Sunderland Echo - - Sports Comment - PHIL SMITH Fol­low Phil Smith at twit­ter.com/Phil__Smith

Slowly but surely a pic­ture of what we might get from Sun­der­land’s new man­ager emerges. The de­sire to sound out Michael O’Neill over the va­cancy of­fers con­text to a seach that has been pro­tracted to say the least.

At times it has been ex­as­per­at­ing. The long­est papal elec­tion in his­tory took three years, run­ning from 1268-71.

Amid bit­ter fac­tion­al­ism, the car­di­nals even­tu­ally set­tled on a com­pro­mise can­di­date.

The wait went on so long, three of them died in the process. An­other was so frus­trated he re­signed.

If the wait for white smoke above the Sta­dium the of Light has not quite plumbed those depths, then it has cer­tainly been a long three weeks for anx­ious on­look­ers.

The bru­tal re­moval of Si­mon Grayson, just min­utes af­ter the 3-3 draw with Bolton, sug­gested the wheels were long in mo­tion. Clearly, they were not. It puts pres­sure on Martin Bain to de­liver an en­er­gis­ing ap­point­ment, even if the fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions he is work­ing un­der make that dif­fi­cult to de­liver.

Should the de­lay lead to the ap­point­ment of Michael O’Neill, that will of­fer some ex­pla­na­tion at least and, for many, an el­e­ment of op­ti­mism.

His work with the North­ern Ire­land de­fence has been stel­lar, he has shown no lit­tle charisma in the process and the time has surely come for him to re­turn to the daily process of club man­age­ment.

Of course, there are no guar­an­tees. Even given his re­cent suc­cess it would rep­re­sent a gam­ble and that is where Bain and Short find them­selves at this point.

It is a gam­ble worth tak­ing.

For this pro­tracted process to end with the ap­point­ment of, say, Ally McCoist would fur­ther punc­ture a mood on Wear­side that is al­ready too flat.

McCoist is out of work and ea­ger to get back into the game, though you won­der, and hope, that the strength of fan re­ac­tion will de­ter the club go­ing down that road. At such a cross­roads mo­ment, alien­at­ing fans fur­ther sim­ply can­not be an op­tion.

Then there is the Barns­ley man­ager Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom, a tal­ented coach but one who, like O’Neill, neatly sur­mises Bain’s dilemma.

The ob­vi­ous fol­low-up to in­ter­est in the for­mer Sun­der­land man be­comes, how does that dif­fer to the ap­point­ment of Grayson?

It is a fair ques­tion, and should Heck­ing­bot­tom make the switch he will face the same chal­lenge as Grayson, his counter-at­tack­ing style not eas­ily trans­lated to the cur­rent Sun­der­land squad.

Nev­er­the­less, his work at Barns­ley has been noth­ing short of out­stand­ing, over­com­ing con­stant over­haul of his squad and yet de­liv­er­ing con­sis­tently wellor­gan­ised sides who punch above their weight.

That sug­gests an ex­cel­lent coach who is able to de­liver a clear mes­sage to play­ers, some­thing that is cer­tainly backed up by his ex­cel­lent, elo­quent ap­proach to dis­cussing the game in press con­fer­ences.

There is lit­tle rea­son to sug­gest he and Grayson have sim­i­lar philoso­phies or ap­proaches to coach­ing.

The same goes for O’Neill, un­proven at club level but with an in­ter­na­tional record that has caught the eye and whose man man­age­ment with an age­ing group has been su­perb.

What­ever Bain de­cides, there is lit­tle ques­tion that is a defin­ing mo­ment in his time as chief ex­ec­u­tive. Ul­ti­mately, there is prob­a­bly no so­lu­tion that would be uni­ver­sally wel­come, any can­di­date fac­ing a fight to show that their en­deav­ours else­where can lead to sucess on Wear­side.

From the out­side it has been a frus­trat­ing, slow­mov­ing process.

It must yield the right re­sult.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Bain (left) with for­mer Sun­der­land boss Si­mon Grayson.

Barns­ley man­ager Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom

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