Former hero Alex Rae believes Alex McLeish could be the perfect fit for Sunderland.
The Black Cats’ search to replace departed David Moyes, who resigned last Monday over concerns about the club’s budget, is set to go into a third week, with Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes still the bookmakers’ favourite for the post.
Rae has urged Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain, who he knows from his time at Rangers, to make sure he does his homework on the candidates for what he describes as ‘one of the biggest appointments in the club’s recent history’.
For Rae, trophies and experience far outweigh seventh-place finishes.
And, as a result, he thinks Sunderland should shun the idea of looking at managers like Garry Monk, who left Leeds United having failed to guide them to a Championship play-off spot.
Instead, he reckons Bain should turn to a manager like McLeish, who not only knows how to get out of the division, but also how to win things.
He can work to a budget and is a winner. I’m sure he would welcome an offer to be Sunderland boss
“For me, Sunderland need a manager like McLeish,” said Rae, who spent five years at the club between 1996 and 2001. The fans might not like me saying that, but he is perfect for them.
“Sunderland is a monster of a club. To be a manager there, you have to be able to deal with the pressures that come with the responsibility.
“McLeish has been at Rangers, had to deal with being a previous Birmingham City boss at Aston Villa. He is a big, big character. Not only that, he is a manager who has trophies coming out of his ears.
“He has managed at that level, won cups north and south of the border and even managed at international level and abroad.
“All you have to do is look at his win percentage in Belgium (when he managed KRC Genk with Rae as his assistant) – it was about 54%. The same when he managed Scotland – it was about 70%.
“People keep talking about managers who have done this, done that – but what have they really done? What have they won? A seventh place isn’t success. Winning things is and the big ’un knows how to do that.”
It’s all the rage these days to appoint a young manager. Fresh ideas in a changing football landscape are often seen as the deciding factor that sees some older candidates elbowed out the running.
But there is a time and a place for that, according to Rae. Although he doesn’t believe that’s what Sunderland need at the moment.
“Managers need to know how to deal with players – if they haven’t got that they will fail,” said Rae, who has had his own stint in the dugout at Dundee and more recently St Mirren.
“Some of these younger candidates might seem the real deal, but you can’t talk to players, wherever they are from, whatever nationality, about phrases out of a coaching manual. You need to speak to them like proper players. That is when they respond.
“McLeish has got everything. He has presence when he walks into a dressing-room, can command respect and he has the man-management skills.
“He can work to a budget and is a winner. I’m sure he would welcome an offer to be Sunderland boss.
“For whoever gets the job, it will be tough at Sunderland.
“I said it five years ago, before I had even worked alongside him, and I will say it again – McLeish is the type of manager that this club has been crying out for.”