Although Gus Poyet remains the overwhelming favourite, at 1/3, to be named the next Sunderland boss, the delay to appoint Paolo Di Canio’s successor has highlighted that the board on Wearside are happy to take their time choosing the right man for the daunting task ahead.
With Poyet widely thought to have been interviewed for the post this week, he leap-frogged former Chelsea teammate Roberto di Matteo as favourite, after the Champions League winner appeared to rule himself out of the running.
With Gianfranco Zola, another old Stamford Bridge pal, also having spurned Sunderland’s advances, Poyet is thought to be Director of Football Roberto De Fanti’s first choice in the absence of any real high-profile competition.
But, if the murmurs around Wearside and in the local press are to be believed, the board are less enamoured with the former Brighton boss, and are keen to interview several other candidates before making a decision.
Following the dismal performance of the last man he appointed at short notice, with Di Canio brought in only one day after predecessor Martin O’Neill’s dismissal, owner Ellis Short is clearly not prepared to make the same mistake again, with a higher emphasis on due diligence expected this time round.
Among those believed to be threatening Poyet’s first pop at the big time is former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen.
The Dutchman has also held talks with the club this week, with Short and De Fanti seeing the appointment of a “tracksuit manager” as their priority given that 14 new faces arrived at the Stadium of Light over the summer. Forging these recruits together as one will be chief among any new manager’s responsibilities.
And Meulensteen has a fine track record, having spent five years at Old Trafford as Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team coach. Much admired among the United players, Meulensteen could do worse than show Short a list of quotes from some of his former players, including Robin Van Persie, who described him only last season as “truly one of the best coaches in the world”.
Although his most recent role since leaving United, as manager of Anzhi Makhachkala, may have left a bitter taste, when he was sacked after just 16 days as part of owner Suleiman Kerimov’s overhaul and budget-slashing, the Dutchman’s reputation in England has not been affected.
Having started the week as only a name among many, Meulensteen has moved all the way in to 4/1 second fav, but with reported interest from Fulham boss Martin Jol, who is keen to bring him to Craven Cottage, Short will have to act quickly should he decide on the Dutchman over the Uruguayan.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.