Six reasons why Sunderland should go all out for Nigel Adkins

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 10 October 2019, 12:53

After Jack Ross’ dismissal as manager this week, Sunderland are looking for a new manager.

Daniel Stendel is the current 2/1 favourite with BetVictor after his achievements with Barnsley last season – but do they have the squad to execute high-pressing methods?

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Here’s why the Black Cats should go all out for Nigel Adkins, an outsider at 25/1.

League One record

Adkins has won promotion as a manager at this level with Scunthorpe and Southampton – in fact, he oversaw two promotions with both of those clubs.

Having spent a lot of money on the likes of Grant Leadbitter and Will Grigg, whilst possessing an astronomical wage bill, Sunderland will feel they need to win promotion this season.

Granted, Adkins did not have too much success with Sheffield United in 2015-16, but the fact he has gone up from this level as a manager before could give him a big tick in the minds of Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven.

Pedigree

Adkins has managed in the Premier League with Southampton and Reading.

He was dismissed in 2013 by the Saints, who made the controversial decision to appoint a then-unknown manager in Mauricio Pochettino.

There was nothing wrong with how Southampton were playing or faring in terms of results at the time Adkins was dismissed - they were five games unbeaten at that point - so he was arguably unlucky to lose his job.

At Reading, later that season, he inherited a squad that was not good enough for the top flight due to underinvestment the previous summer – and they were seven points off safety with seven games to play when he took over, so no blame can be attached to him for the Royals’ ultimate relegation.

Impressive job at Hull

Long-term, Sunderland are planning for life in the Championship - even if they have a lot of work to do to ensure their presence in that division next season.

Adkins’ record in full seasons as a Championship manager though, is rather compelling.

He led Southampton to automatic promotion in 2011-12, then took Reading to seventh place in 2013-14 – missing out on the Play-Offs on the final day – then steered Hull to 13th despite limited investment and a lack of off-field leadership.

Pull-together positivity

One of the reasons Adkins did so well at Hull was because he is relentlessly positive.

When results were not going so well, he was always keen to emphasise how close the team were, the chances they were creating and got players to believe that their efforts would soon be rewarded.

For fans disillusioned with Allam’s ownership regime, they had something to believe in.

Adkins’ strength of will was a key factor behind Hull’s outstanding winter form last season, when they picked up 22 points from eight games across December and January.

He’ll maximize Maguire and McGeady

Although Aiden McGeady and Chris Maguire are Sunderland’s most technically-accomplished players – and McGeady is outright their best – the duo also bring the most complications.

If Stendel were appointed, for example, his approach would be to treat every player the same, to initiate a high-pressing setup with heavy demands off the ball.

That approach worked in League One with a youthful squad, but it may not get the best out of McGeady or Maguire, who are relatively languid in terms of their movement off the ball.

Although Adkins showed at Hull he is happy to work with young players, with the financial restrictions making it harder for him to recruit proven quality in depth.

However, he also clearly found a way of man managing Kamil Grosicki who, having reportedly hoped for a move away in 2018, went on to have an outstanding individual campaign for the Tigers.

If Adkins could build his team around McGeady and possibly Maguire in a similar way, then Sunderland could really see the results.

Fixing the defence

Sunderland’s defence has been a long-standing problem.

The Black Cats have kept just 23 clean sheets in their last 142 league games.

In the Premier League and in the Championship, this was put down to a lack of fight, effort and commitment but those things have not been in question in League One, nor has the individual quality in the squad.

The players in question must take some responsibility – left-back Laurens De Bock, for example, came under a lot of criticism for the 2-0 loss at Lincoln last time out and goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin did not cover himself in glory either.

However, it is tempting to conclude that the team has not been particularly well-organised; and it does not exactly help that as many as eight different defenders have been used in the league this season, with centre-back Jordan Willis being the only mainstay.

Adkins is a clear communicator; his Southampton side at this level kept 18 clean sheets in 41 and, having overseen seven clean sheets for Hull within a 13-game period last season, could be the man to help shore things up.

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