Following the dismissal of a haggard Simon Grayson within 15 minutes of Sunderland’s draw with Bolton Wanderers at the Stadium of Light last night, two questions quickly emerged: who will replace him and will anyone in their right mind want to do so? Appointed just four months and 18 games ago but looking to have aged about 20 years in the interim, Grayson became the 11th manager – permanent or caretaker – to have taken charge of the Wearside club since Roy Keane’s two-year reign at the club ended in December 2008. Sunderland last won at home on 17 December, almost 11 months ago. Widely perceived to be as rotten to the core as they are dysfunctional from the boardroom down, they have developed a reputation as something of a managerial graveyard on which even the most desperate of out-of-work managers must be wary of risking what’s left of their reputations.
The Sunderland Echo suggest it’s time the club went “back to the future” in a bid to sort out the mess in which they currently find themselves, before they sleep-walk to back-to-back relegations and sink into the third tier. The paper touts Peter Reid, who steered the club to successive seventh place finishes in the top flight during his seven-year reign at the turn of the century, as a potential contender to succeed Grayson, while his former charges Kevin Phillips and Kevin Ball are also shortish prices in the betting to be next to sup from one of the most hemlock-heavy chalices in English football.
John O’Shea, who continues to play for Sunderland and has had instructions barked at him by 10 different managers since joining in 2011, has also been mentioned as a potential player-manager. The wisdom of such an appointment is questionable, as the likelihood of a squad rumoured to enjoy a thriving drinking culture taking orders from a team-mate would seem exceedingly slim.
Higher up the food chain, the former Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce is believed to be favourite to take the vacant Everton job, but will force the Goodison Park board to pay him top dollar to take it on. The Lancashire Telegraph say the Merseyside club will not be approaching Sean Dyche as their first choice, despite the Burnley manager having been heavily linked with the hot-seat recently vacated by Ronald Koeman.
And so to news of potential player transfers. Having come within a whisker of signing the Monaco playmaker Thomas Lemar for £90m last summer, only for the deal to fall through and knock on the head any hopes Alexis Sánchez had of securing his dream move to Manchester City, Arsenal will not have it all their own way when they make a bid for the French international next summer. Barcelona and Liverpool are believed to be interested in entering the race to sign the 21-year-old. In news recycled from yesterday’s environmentally friendly, biodegradable Rumour Mill, should Arsenal fail in their bid to land Lemar they will switch their attention to Napoli’s Brazilian playmaker Jorginho.
And in today’s final paragraph, it is with the most glad of tidings that the Times report that Chelsea are ready to offer Cesc Fàbregas a new deal in a bid to fend off interest from Manchester United, although they may change their minds after reviewing his role in last night’s Halloween horror show in Rome. Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo report that Marseille are interested in luring Riyad Mahrez away from Leicester City in January, while Manchester United and Milan are ready to duke it out in the battle to secure the signature of 19-year-old RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. The German side’s goalkeeper, Peter Gulacsi, is currently being scouted by both Arsenal and Chelsea.