When Martin O’Neill left Aston Villa because of disagreements with the board, there weren’t too many Villa supporters who were happy. 

This time, however, as the Northern Irish tactician departs from Sunderland, it’s almost the opposite. 

O’Neill has barely shown the tactical awareness or man-managing prowess at the Stadium of Light that shone so brightly at Villa Park.

Once touted alongside David Moyes to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson when he retires, O’Neill now has the disgrace of leaving a side with seven games left of the season. There will be calls that he’s been sacked too soon, and calls that this is too late to make a difference, but the long and the short of it is that O’Neill has been axed and Sunderland need a new manager.

So who should replace O’Neill at the Stadium of Light?

Steve McClaren

Having been out of the English Premier League since 2006, Steve McClaren is now available again. Since a second stint at FC Twente did not go as well as the first, McClaren has been looking for another job. 

The former Manchester United assistant manager got the England job far too soon, having only been in charge of Middlesbrough for five years.

He did win the League Cup with them in 2004, but surely we want more from an England manager than that. The way most England fans remember him is standing under an umbrella, as England were eliminated from the Euro 2008 qualifiers. But it is important to remember that he did have a 50% win rate as England head coach. Since then he’s won a Eredivisie title with Twente, in 2010.

McClaren isn’t reaching too far for 16th placed Sunderland, he’s been good in the past and could be good again - a lot like the Black Cats themselves.

Roberto Di Matteo

Personally, I was a fan of his style at West Bromwich Albion and during his short reign in the hot seat at Stamford Bridge. Many feel that the ex-Chelsea manager wasn’t given enough time in west London and needs to be given another chance. But he’s not just going to walk back into a top five team. 

When the Premier League is as tough at the top as it has ever been – we’ll forget that Manchester United have basically won the Premier League already, because the fight for fourth spot is such an open one – managers are going to need to be of a certain pedigree.

It wouldn’t be an easy job for Di Matteo, but let’s remember that he did win the Champions League with Chelsea - a feat that no other manager has achieved, despite this being owner Roman Abramovich’s main goal at the club.

Many Chelsea fans will see this as a betrayal, but let’s face it, he’s not going to get the Chelsea job back, and someone should be utilising his tactical knowledge.

Mark Hughes

His reputation has been up and down a lot over the last few years. He seems to do well at every other club he manages. Ignoring his not unimpressive stint in charge of the Wales national team, it started when he was given the reins Blackburn Rovers, where he exceeded expectations.

Hughes, a former Manchester United player, then moved to Manchester City.

Although his win ratio at City was higher than it was at Rovers, so were the owners’ expectations. Hughes was subsequently ousted for Roberto Mancini.

After seven months out of work, Premier League strugglers Fulham picked up Hughes, where he did well enough to be scouted by mega-rich Queens Park Rangers. But he only lasted 10 months, ending one season with his lowest ever win percentage; he was eventually axed and replaced by Harry Redknapp. 

Hughes has got to be looking for another chance to get in the ring. With seven games left of this season for Sunderland, turning it around would help to improve Sparky’s mixed reputation.

Other names that come up on the list of possible contenders are: Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Owen Coyle.

So who do you think will take over?


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