The constant change in managers at Sunderland will persist until the owner has a change of heart.

Estimated read time 5 min read

In late January, when the lights went out on Michael Beale, it seemed to symbolize his upcoming separation from Sunderland.

During a press conference at the Academy of Light, the training base for the Championship club, Beale was interrupted by a power outage that left the complex in darkness. As the manager led reporters to a well-lit atrium to continue speaking, it became increasingly apparent that it may only be a matter of time before the board decided to replace Tony Mowbray.

On Monday, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, the majority owner of Sunderland who is 27 years old, fired Beale despite only being two months, 12 games, and four wins into his two-and-a-half-year contract. Mike Dodds will temporarily lead the team for the rest of the season, beginning with Saturday’s match against Swansea at home. His goal will be to narrow the seven-point difference between Sunderland, currently in 10th place, and the playoff positions.

At the Stadium of Light, the 37-year-old coach is highly respected for his strong relationships with players on the first-team, particularly Jobe Bellingham, the important attacking midfielder. In a previous role as interim manager after Mowbray’s departure, he led the team to victories against West Brom and Leeds by implementing a back three formation that caught the latter by surprise.

Looking back, it may have been wiser for Louis-Dreyfus to have kept Dodds in December. However, Beale was brought in and quickly struggled, with a low point being a loss at home to Hull just before the press conference that was interrupted by a power outage.

The individual from London was evidently experiencing difficulties while taking over for the highly admired and, by most logical measures, quite accomplished Mowbray. This led to the person openly expressing their emotions. “From the beginning, people didn’t want me here,” stated the ex-manager of Rangers and QPR, who gained recognition as Steven Gerrard’s assistant at Rangers and Aston Villa. “You can attribute it to preferences or other factors, but let’s be direct, people did not approve of me.”

Beale made his situation worse by stating that he was “bewildered” by the negative feedback from supporters, which seemed to affect him deeply. He was correct in noting that Sunderland has the youngest team in the league, operates with a relatively low budget compared to other teams in the second tier, and achieved playoff qualification earlier than expected last season, just one year after being promoted from League One.

The issue at hand was that Mowbray excelled even with limited resources, and his team played a more appealing style. As a result, when Sunderland suffered a 2-1 defeat against Mowbray’s new team, Birmingham, last Saturday, Beale’s position became unsustainable.

Instead of returning to Wearside on Saturday evening, the departing manager took a flight to Glasgow to visit his family before taking a scheduled day off. By this point, many onlookers believed that Beale would be spending more time in Scotland. These speculations were officially confirmed on Monday morning.

Dodds quickly took on the role of interim manager and Will Still, a 31-year-old coach from England and Belgium who was currently managing Reims in the top division of French soccer, promptly expressed his desire to return to England and emphasized his interest in joining a competitive team in the Championship league.

Mike Dodds View image in fullscreen


Louis-Dreyfus and his optimistic director of football, Kristjaan Speakman, should consider themselves lucky that Sunderland is still a desirable option for a promising young manager. After all, capable coaches may hesitate to join a club that has had 22 managers in 22 years, and five in just three years since the French-Swiss owner took over as chairman.

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However, despite having a remarkable infrastructure that meets the standards of the Premier League, including the 49,000-seat Stadium of Light and well-equipped Academy of Light, Sunderland’s average home attendance of nearly 41,000 in the Championship this season indicates that they still have significant drawing ability.

Theoretically, they should be receiving numerous applications from top-notch managers looking to make a statement in the style of Graham Potter. However, the actual situation is quite different. While it is logical for billionaire Louis-Dreyfus to want to operate Sunderland as a financially stable business, his plan for achieving success is not without its shortcomings.

Similar to numerous other clubs, Sunderland strives to discover promising young players from around the world and develop them into skilled athletes who can bring success to the team and eventually be sold for significant profits. However, unlike other teams who follow this approach, they appear to overlook the importance of having some level of experience in order to provide guidance on the field and maintain a consistent performance.

Beale, similar to Mowbray, left shortly after he openly questioned Speakman’s inability to secure a reliable center-forward for him. Currently, the loaned player from Chelsea, Mason Burstow, and Ukrainian striker Nazariy Rusyn are not able to finish off some impressive plays from players like Bellingham and the skilled winger Jack Clarke.

Additionally, the group, along with Beale, faced additional challenges with Alex Pritchard’s decision to stop playing for Sunderland and instead join Birmingham last month. Pritchard, who is 30 years old and plays in an attacking midfield position, was the most seasoned player on the team.

Louis-Dreyfus is determined to lead the promotion effort, but unless Dodds can perform extraordinary feats, achieving this goal will require taking risks to gain rewards. Without this necessary investment, it appears that Sunderland’s frequent changes in management will persist at its ridiculously high rate.


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