A brief history of the Modern Sunderland Manager

We take a look at previous managers in the Stadium of Light hot-seat to see how they fared - and wonder where Michael Beale will rank in such illustrious company...

Regardless of your thoughts on the new man in charge, it’s familiar ground for Sunderland this weekend, as we have yet another manager/head coach making his debut in the dugout.

Mick Beale will be manager number 20 since Peter Reid took the reins back in 1995, so with that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at some of the rudimentary stats behind the men who have dared to take the Sunderland hotseat in the period – working on the premise of the Reid period being the start of the “modern” era of Sunderland.

The first thing to consider is one of the biggest clichés in football; the fabled “new manager bounce”. Where Sunderland are concerned “fabled” doesn’t do it justice, the new manager bounce is more elusive than the Loch Ness Monster, with only 6 of the 19 debuts of managers during this run resulting in a win – 31.57% for your percentage fans.

We had in impressive run between Paolo Di Canio and Chris Coleman where seven consecutive managers failed to win their first game in charge, and only Simon Grayson managed to avoid defeat. The worst debut performance of the lot belongs to great escape architect Gus Poyet, who got battered 4-0 away to Swansea back in October 2013.

Conversely the best result of any manager’s debut in red and white belongs to everyone’s favourite Revels-bothering uncle, Tony Mowbray, who oversaw a 3-0 hiding at home to Rotherham in August last year. That result is the only time we have scored more than twice in a manager’s first game, and more remarkably was only the third clean sheet managed from this list; the others coming from Reid (1-0 against Sheffield United) and Steve Bruce (1-0 at Bolton).

An interesting quirk to note for Sunderland during this period is that of our list, only four were appointed before the season started – Bruce, David Moyes, Grayson and Jack Ross. Probably not too rare for football in general, but it’s interesting that we’ve had to appoint so many managers mid-season, with only Alex Neil having left of his own accord while the season was in progress.

When it comes to changes of management, Sunderland’s most active months tend to be October and March, with four each both months. All but one of those eight appointments took place in the Premier League, which is no surprise really, as they come at points where you can either sense your place in the top flight is in danger (October), or you’re starting to panic about the relegation battle (March). The exception in the list was Phil Parkinson, who I still assume was only appointed for a laugh.

Then you have the stats that matter – win percentages. While not the all encompassing basis on which to judge a manager (and you’ll see why in a moment), they at least tend to give an indication of how that manager did overall. So with that in mind, the highest win percentage of any Sunderland manager since 1995 belongs to Lee Johnson, with 51.3% of his 78 games resulting in a win. The mitigating circumstances here being that this was entirely in League One, and is dampened even further by the fact that he somehow managed to lose 18 games, the most of any Sunderland boss before him since David Moyes.

Compare Johnson to Alex Neil and you can see why context is important, as Neil is ranked third on win percentage, winning 50% of his games in charge, again, most of which in the third tier, but getting promoted in the process. Sandwiched between the two is Jack Ross on 50.67%, again, entirely in League One, and staggeringly had the third largest number of draws from the whole list, with 27. To put that into further context, the second most draws goes to Steve Bruce, who oversaw 23 more games than Ross, and achieved 28 draws.

Peter Reid is the outlier in the list, as he managed 206 more games of Sunderland than any those who came after him, so it’s no surprise that he was the only one to win more than 100 of his games (159).

So taking Reid to one side, and looking at the managers who were here for the usual expected tenure (a maximum of 3 years), it’s Mick McCarthy who comes out on top in numbers of wins, with 63, again though this isn’t overly surprising, as he over saw a Championship-winning season, and took in 147 games all in. What skews McCarthy’s figures to leave him on win percentage of 42.86% (still fairly impressive) is that he took part in our two records points low finishes in the Premier League, pushing him well on the way to his 58 losses, the most of any manager after Reid.

The worst win percentage of the lot belongs to poor Simon Grayson, who won three and lost eight of his 18 games on Wearside, leaving him on a diabolical 16.67%. He’s followed closely by Chris Coleman and his 6 kids, with 17.2% to round off a truly atrocious Championship relegation season.

So, what does this all mean? Literally nothing, is the answer. We have spent the vast part of the last three decades being at best, comically inept, and most of the managers who came in did saw at a time where the previous manager had left a bin fire raging, so it’s no real surprise that most didn’t fare too well, either on their first game in charge, or overall.

Let’s just hope that Beale can be lucky number seven and get off to a win against Coventry, or, at the very least, has a better time than Wilkinson, McCarthy, Sbragia, Di Canio, Poyet, Advocaat, Allardyce, Moyes, Coleman, Parkinson and Johnson did. Mixed company at best.

Manager Joined Left Debut Result Games Won Draw Lost Win %
Tony Mowbray 30/08/22 04/12/23 Rotherham (H) 3-0 65 26 18 21 40.00%
Alex Neil 11/02/22 28/08/22 Wimbledon (A) 1-1 24 12 9 3 50.00%
Lee Johnson 05/12/20 30/01/22 Wigan (H) 0-1 78 40 20 18 51.30%
Phil Parkinson 17/10/19 29/11/20 Wycombe (A) 0-1 48 19 15 14 39.58%
Jack Ross 25/05/18 08/10/19 Charlton (H) 2-1 75 38 27 10 50.67%
Chris Coleman 19/11/17 29/04/18 Aston Villa (A) 1-2 29 5 8 16 17.20%
Simon Grayson 29/06/17 31/10/17 Derby (H) 1-1 18 3 7 8 16.67%
David Moyes 23/07/16 22/05/17 Man City (A) 1-2 43 8 7 28 18.60%
Sam Allardyce 09/10/15 22/07/16 West Brom (A) 0-1 31 9 9 13 29.00%
Dick Advocaat 17/03/15 04/10/15 West Ham (A) 0-1 19 4 6 9 21.05%
Gus Poyet 08/10/13 16/03/15 Swansea (A) 0-4 75 23 23 29 30.67%
Paolo Di Canio 31/03/13 22/09/13 Chelsea (A) 1-2 13 3 3 7 23.10%
Martin O’Neill 03/12/11 30/03/13 Blackburn (H) 2-1 66 21 20 25 31.80%
Steve Bruce 03/06/09 30/11/11 Bolton (A) 1-0 98 29 28 41 29.60%
Ricky Sbragia 04/12/08 24/05/09 Man Utd (A) 0-1 26 6 7 13 23.08%
Roy Keane 28/08/06 04/12/08 Derby (A) 2-1 100 42 17 41 42.00%
Mick McCarthy 12/03/03 06/03/06 Bolton (H) 0-2 147 63 26 58 42.86%
Howard Wilkinson 10/10/02 10/03/03 West Ham (H) 0-1 27 4 8 15 14.81%
Peter Reid 29/03/95 07/10/02 Sheff Utd (H) 1-0 353 159 95 99 45.04%