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Should Sunderland Consider David Moyes’ Future?

Should Sunderland Consider David Moyes’ Future?

As I began writing this article, I pondered over calling it “Why David Moyes should be sacked“. Yeah, people would probably click it and people would probably read it, but I could not in good conscience write an article in which I call for the sacking of anyone in their chosen career. There are many reasons why I could write an article with a headline calling for David Moyes sacking; the FA charge for telling a female reporter she “might get a slap”, the fact that Sunderland have been relegated this season under his reign after 10 years in the top flight, or the fact that Moyes himself has a lack of experience in a Championship which has moved on in great strides since his time at Preston. This article will look at some alternatives who I’ve simulated in Football Manager 2017, who could be considered David Moyes alternatives going into the 17/18 season of the Championship.

Michael O’Neill

The first manager under the spotlight is Michael O’Neill. Still relatively inexperienced in the game, he’s been linked with last year’s Premier League winners Leicester City, and more recently with Watford and Scotland. The current Northern Ireland manager has guided his nation to some credible results, including a 1-1 draw against Portugal and a 1-0 win over Russia during the 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign. Northern Ireland also qualified for the 2016 Euros with a 3-1 victory over Greece making it the first time in 30 years that they had qualified for a major tournament. Whilst his lack of experience in the English game might not make him a great candidate, he’s shown himself to be a good man manager, something which could go a long way in the Championship. He would also have the backing and the advice of his brother, former Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill, who managed Sunderland for just under two seasons. Could Michael learn from his brother’s mistakes and succeed as manager of Sunderland? Let’s ask Football Manager:

The first thing to look at is Michael O’Neill’s transfers. He brought in  two players, Alan Judge (3.3m) and Tyrone Mings (Loan), and allowed two players to leave the club, Lynden Gooch (Loan) and Joel Asoro (6.25m).

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He played a 4-5-1 formation which included Defoe up top, in what you have to say is a very strong Championship team.

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Now for the results, Sunderland came 8th in the table with 70 points, scoring 53 goals and conceding 42.

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Their top goal scorer was Defoe with 17 goals, while Cattermole got the most assists with 10.

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Elsewhere the club made it to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, losing to Hull 1-0, and the Fourth Round of the League Cup, losing to Brighton 1-0.

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Was Michael O’Neill a success? I can’t help but feel a resounding “no”. However the club has not yet sacked him and he is still manager going into the 17/18 season of the Championship. I would expect a Sunderland fan would have expected promotion from what is a very strong team, and I’m sure many would be calling for the sacking of Michael O’Neill if this were to happen in real life.

Michael O’Neill? Failure!

Ryan Giggs 

Moving from one inexperienced manager to the next we have Ryan Giggs. The most inexperienced manager we’re going to simulate with today, Ryan Giggs has only ever managed 4 matches when he stepped in as interim-player/manager of Manchester United following the sacking of David Moyes at the end of the 13/14 season. In those 4 matches in charge Giggs recorded 2 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw; and following his brief stint as manager, Giggs was handed the role of assistant manager of the club by incoming head coach Louis Van Gaal. Whilst his time in football management has been short, we have had glimpses into the type of manager Ryan Giggs could be after handing debuts to youngsters James Wilson and Tom Lawrence. He also encouraged Manchester United to play an attacking brand of football during his short spell, something which was seen as quite anti-Moyes. Could this combination be what Sunderland needs to help win promotion back to the Premier League? Let’s ask Football Manager and find out:

The first thing to note is that Ryan Giggs is no longer the Sunderland boss. He lasted for 169 days, and made no transfers at all, during his time at Sunderland.



The most interesting thing to me, is that his results were not as poor as I had anticipated after realising he had been sacked, with a win percentage of 40%, picking up 11 wins, 8 draws and 8 losses in 27 games, he quite possibly could have survived at a mid table Championship club. Looking at Sunderland’s fixture list, it can be seen that he had a great start, picking up 24 points from a possible 30 in the first 10 games of the season.


Following Giggs’ sacking Fernando Hierro took over as manager of the club, guiding them to 5th place to make the playoffs, along with Norwich, Wolves and Middlesbrough. In the playoffs semi-final, they beat Wolves 4-2 on aggregate, before losing 2-1 to Norwich in the final. Not a bad few months work for Fernando Hierro.


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Was Ryan Giggs a success at Sunderland? Defintely not. He started the season really well, with a great run of results, but eventually proved it may have been beginner’s luck before the board at Sunderland pulled the trigger and brought in a new man.

Ryan Giggs? Failure!

Fernando Hierro? …

Alan Pardew 

Perhaps the most controversial name in this article, Alan Pardew is the former manager of Newcastle United. He’s had requisite Championship experience with West Ham, guiding them to the playoff final in 03/04, and again in 04/05 final when they succeeded in promotion to the Premier League. He has had notable periods with Reading, Charlton, Southampton, Newcastle and Crystal Palace in which he hasn’t always had a good relationship with the fans. During his time at Newcastle he received a lot of criticism from the stands and the local media, but could this be used to his advantage if he was appointed manager of bitter rivals Sunderland? Let’s ask Football Manager and find out:

The first thing to look at is transfers. It’s interesting to see that Pardew made no summer signings in terms of incoming or outgoing transfers. Before mindbogglingly signing Mbappé on loan in January… Don’t you love when Football Manager throws in a gem like that! Seb Larsson (575k) also left the club in January, someone who I would consider one of their better players in the past few seasons and a maestro on free-kicks.

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He played a 4-2-3-1 formation with two ball winning midfielders in Ndong and Cattermole in the middle of the park. A front 4 of Khazri, Anichebe, Januzaj and Defoe is a formidable front 4 for any team in the bottom half of the Premier League, never-mind a team challenging for the Championship.

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As for the results… Sunderland won the Championship. Gathering 86 points after scoring 75 goals and conceding 47.

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The top scorer was predictably Jermaine Defoe with 22 goals, and the most number of assists came from Khazri with 11.


This success in the Championship may have come at the cost of  some poor cup runs. In the League cup, Sunderland exited the competition in the second round following an extremely disappointing 2-1 loss to League 2 side Coventry. In the FA cup, Sunderland left the competition in the third round, following a 3-1 loss to Cardiff City.

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Was Alan Pardew a success? Definitely. He guided the team to first place in the Championship, replicating their bitter rivals Newcastle. The fans and the board will be pleased to be back in the top flight, and hopefully under Pardew’s guidance they can avoid relegation in their return season.

Alan Pardew? Success!

Alex Neil 

Alex Neil is the youngest manager on this list at the age of 35. Despite his age he has had great success in Scotland and in England. During his time at Scotland he took charge of Hamilton Academical and during his first full season in charge he lead the club back to the top flight of Scottish Football. During the 14/15 Scottish Premiership season Hamilton started strongly, even beating Celtic at Celtic Park for the first time in 76 years. He caught the eye of Norwich City, who approached him as manager in January of the same season. Norwich finished the season 3rd in the Championship entering the playoff semi-finals in which they beat Ipswich 4-2 on aggregate. In the playoff finals Alex Neil lead his side to a 2-0 victory against Middlesbrough, and was promoted to the Premier League for the following season. Whilst Alex Neil is young, has he got the right tools and experience in place to guide Sunderland to a return to the top flight? Let’s ask Football Manager:

The first thing to look at is transfers, and it was two deadline day signings for Alex Neil in the summer, with both Demarai Gray and Louis Schaub joining his side on loan. Duncun Watmore also left the club on loan, whilst Joel Asoro (6m) left the club for Liverpool.

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He played quite an attacking 4-3-2-1, with Januzaj, Schaub and Gray supporting Defoe up top. Screenshot (86)

Moving onto the Championship, Sunderland finished second in the league with 90 points, 4 points more than Sunderland’s simulated title winning season under Pardew.


The club managed to score 81 goals and conceded 50, with Defoe the leading scorer with 19 goals, and Manquillo recording the most assists with 11.

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Sunderland played Arsenal twice in cup competitions. Meeting them first in the third round of the League Cup, picking up a 4-1 loss, before meeting them again in the FA cup quarter finals, exiting on penalties after a 2-2 draw.


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Was Alex Neil a success? Absolutely, perhaps even more so than Pardew. He didn’t win the league, but accumulated more points and got further in both cup runs. He is a definite alternative to David Moyes in the 17/18 Championship season who the board at Sunderland would be naive not to consider.

Alex Neil? Success!

Nigel Pearson 

Nigel Pearson is one of the more experienced names in this article, having managed at Carlisle, West Brom, Newcastle, Southampton, Leicester, Hull, Derby as well as the England under 21 squad. His most notable period was at Leicester City, in which he guided them from League 1 to the championship in the 08/09 season, finishing as champions. Leicester finished fifth during their first season back in the Championship in 09/10, before being beating on penalties by Cardiff in the playoff semi-final. He joined Hull City at the end of the 09/10 campaign, and guided Hull to an 11th placed finish during the 10/11 season. Despite starting the 11/12 season promisingly with Hull, he left them to join former club Leicester City, and guided them to 9th place during the same season. The following year saw the club finish in 6th placed position, earning a playoff spot on goal difference. The club won the first leg of the semi-finals against Watford, but later lost the second leg 3-1 after Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty. The 13/14 season was the best of Pearson’s reign, during which he guided them back to the Premier League as the holders of the Championship title. Could he do the same with Sunderland? Let’s ask Football Manager:

So the first thing to note is that Pearson has suffered the same fate as Ryan Giggs, having been sacked after 211 days in charge. Looking at Sunderland’s fixtures during his time in charge between 1/7/16 and 31/12/16, we can see some remarkably bad results, which are worse then Ryan Giggs’ on comparison. This perhaps goes to show that experience isn’t everything!


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Following Pearson’s sacking, the club was taken over by Roberto Di Matteo. He guided the club to 11th place in the Championship in what would be an extremely disappointing season to Sunderland fans.

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So was Pearson a success? Most definitely not. Picking up the worst record so far, it goes to show that championship experience isn’t everything. Roberto Di Matteo didn’t fare much better, and an 11th placed finish will surely have fans calling for the Board to do something to change the club’s fortunes before they suffer the same fate as Wigan, with relegation to League 1.

Nigel Pearson? Failure! 

Jürgen Klinsmann 

Perhaps the least realistic name on this list, Jürgen Klinsmann is potentially still a possibility should Sunderland part ways with David Moyes. Following Sam Allardyce’s exit from the club to take over as England boss, Klinsmann had his name linked to Sunderland in the summer of 2016. He has no English football experience, but has plenty of coaching “know-how” which could benefit Sunderland in the Championship. Klinsmann lead Germany to the World Cup semi-final in 2006, before losing 2-0 to eventual winners Italy. They went on to become 3rd placed in the tournament, being Portugal 3-1 for the honour. As head coach of the US National Team, Klinsmann lead them to the round of 16 finish following survival in the “group of death” which featured Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Can Klinsmann use his coaching talents to help Sunderland win promotion back to the Premier League? Let’s ask Football Manager:

The first place to look is at his transfers, and nothing of note stands out. Picking up Cristian Pavón and Jeff Reine-Adelaide on loan, and loaning out Duncon Watmore and Jan Kirchhoff.


His favoured team is similar to Alan Pardew’s and Alex Neil’s with a 4-3-2-1 featuring Cattermole and Ndong in midfield and Khazri behind Defoe.

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As for results, Klinsmann’s side finished 2nd placed in the Championship with 80 points, scoring 79 goals and conceding 47. While not as good as Alan Pardew or Alex Neil, it’s still a very respectable position and a result, you would imagine, that Sunderland fans would be pleased with.


The top scorer with 20 goals was Jermaine Defoe, while Cattermole made the most assists with 10.


Elsewhere Sunderland made it to the Quarter Final of the League cup, before losing 3-1 to Chelsea. They also made it to the fourth round of the FA cup, before being knocked out by Reading following a 2-1 loss.



Was Jürgen Klinsmann a success? So far. He guided the team back to the Premier League, something which would be the key aim for Sunderland in the 17/18 season. Is he the right man to take them forward? This is something which is yet to be seen, he didn’t win the league and only came 1 point ahead of 3rd placed Hull City and 2 points ahead of 4th placed Norwich City. It was a skin of your teeth promotion, and he may not be the right man to lead them during their first season back in the top flight.

Jürgen Klinsmann? Success! 

David Moyes 

This article wouldn’t be fair without giving Moyes the chance to defend himself and guide his relegated Sunderland side back to the top flight himself. He lead his Preston side the the playoff final in 2001 losing 3-0 to Bolton Wanderers. He later joined Everton in 2002. During his period at the club, Everton were never relegated and at times flirted with Champions League football, something Moyes managed only once after finishing in 4th place during the 04/05 season. Moyes left to take over at Manchester United for the 13/14 season following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. Moyes was sacked 4 games before the end of the season after his side missed out on fourth place, sitting 7th placed in the league. In November 2014 he took over Spanish side Real Sociedad, leading them to 12th in the table with some impressive results including a 1-0 win over Barcelona. Moyes was sacked a year after his appointment, in November 2015, following a poor run of form at the start of the season. Following the 15/16 season, Moyes took over at Sunderland after Sam Allardyce left to become Head Coach of the England National Team. During his first and only season in charge so far Moyes lead Sunderland to relegation from the Premier League. Moyes has stated he is planning for the Championship in the 17/18 season, and has reportedly been told by club owner Ellis Short, that he would remain as manager even if Sunderland were relegated in the 16/17 season. Would Moyes do any better in the Championship than the Premiership? Let’s ask FM:

The most transfers we’ve seen so far, Moyes has brought in Fraser (Loan), Iriome (2m), Wasilewski (98k), Kasumu (650k) and Fuentes (775k) while shipping out Watmore (loan) and O’Shea (Free). Screenshot (103)

His favoured squad was almost identical to that of Alan Pardew, only preferring Koné over Djilobodji.

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As for results, Moyes disappointingly finished in 8th placed, the same as Michael O’Neill. His team gathered 69 points, scoring 67 goals and conceding 48.


His top scorer with 19 goals was, you guessed it, Jermaine Defoe. Januzaj made the most assists for the first time with 9.

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Elsewhere Sunderland were knocked out of the League cup following a 3-2 loss to Hull City, and out of the FA Cup after losing 3-0 to bitter rivals Newcastle United.


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Sunderland fans and Moyes himself will be very disappointed by his performance in the Championship. The board interestingly have chosen to stick with him for the 17/18 Championship season, in which Moyes will be hoping for some improvements. Was Moyes a success? Definitely not, but if the club stuck by him in relegation, they should stick by him after an 8th placed finish in the Championship.

David Moyes? Failure! 

Bonus! Fernando Hierro 

Fernando Hierro is the former assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and current manager of Real Oviedo in the Segunda Divisíon, who sit 8th in the table. Following the sacking of Ryan Giggs, Football Manager appointed Fernando Hierro new manager of the club. He guided the club to a fifth placed finish and made it to the playoff final before being knocked out by Norwich. What could he do with a full season in charge of Sunderland? Let’s ask Football Manager:

First things first, Hierro made 2 transfers, bringing in Nacho (1.4m) and Jeff-Reine-Adelaide and shipped out Duncan Watmore on loan to Derby.


His favoured team was the same as David Moyes’, playing a 4-2-3-1 Koné at the back.

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His side, unexpectedly, won the Championship on goal difference, accumulating 87 points, scoring 77 goals and conceding 47 in the process.


His top scorer was Defoe with 21 and once again Lee Cattermole chipped in the most assists with 11.


Sunderland exited the League cup in the third round after a 3-1 defeat against Manchester City. They also exited the FA Cup in the fifth round following a 1-0 defeat against eventual winners Chelsea.



Was Hierro a sucess? Hierro exceeded expectations and then some. If only for the possible chant of “I can be Hierro baby, I can kiss away your pain, I will stand by you forever, your football takes my breath away“, to the tune of Hero by Enrique Iglesias, by the Sunderland supporters, Football Manager has shown that the relatively inexperienced Hierro could be a genuine fit for the Sunderland team in the Championship. Do I think this kind of appointment would happen in real life? Probably not, but it’ll be interesting to see where Hierro’s managerial career goes in the future.

Hierro? Success!


Football Manager has shown that Sunderland may be making a mistake if the keep David Moyes as manager going into next season. Alan Pardew or Alex Neil could be great fits for the club, and if Moyes falls on hard times at Sunderland during the Championship season, expect to see these two names linked to the club. Sunderland have sacked some good managers the season after keeping them up like Dick Advocaat and Gus Poyet. What’s the point in keeping a manger who has got them relegated? Perhaps longevity, perhaps because of Moyes’ track record at Everton, but if there are younger options with fresher ideas, would it be better long term to have them take over? Only time will tell, and we’ll find out next season in the Championship.

Thanks for reading,

Davie Magill


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