The idea of Roy Keane making a sensational return to the Stadium of Light is under consideration at League One Sunderland, with club officials expected to interview their former manager as they search for a replacement for Lee Johnson, who was sacked on Sunday.
Keane, who is believed to be interested in the job, could face serious competition from strong candidates including the former Middlesbrough managers Neil Warnock and Jonathan Woodgate in addition to Grant McCann, recently dismissed by Hull. Sunderland’s owner, the trust fund billionaire Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, says there has been interest in the post from “all over the world”.
Keane making a comeback 13 years after walking out on Sunderland would be guaranteed to fill the Stadium of Light to its near-50,000 capacity. How the infamously prickly former Manchester United captain turned acerbic television pundit would find working alongside Kristjaan Speakman, Sunderland’s head of football, in the mud-on-boots environs of League One represents an intriguing question.
Keane managed Sunderland from 2006-2008, leading them into the Premier League in 2007 and keeping them in the top flight before resigning after a disagreement with the then owner, Ellis Short. Although he assisted Martin O’Neill in coaching the Republic of Ireland, Keane has not been a club manager since his sacking by Ipswich in 2011 but is said to feel he has unfinished business at Sunderland and he retains a deep affection for the club.
Woodgate impressed as caretaker manager at Championship Bournemouth last season and the former England defender has the added advantage of a friendship with Sunderland’s returning striker Jermain Defoe.
At 39 Defoe re-signed for Sunderland on transfer deadline day after leaving Rangers and would enjoy working with Woodgate as the team endeavour to secure promotion.
The 73-year-old Warnock’s candidature cannot be discounted given his record of multiple promotions with assorted clubs, and Sunderland are well aware that McCann led Hull out of League One last season.
Louis-Dreyfus is likely to take his time over an appointment and has placed Mike Dodds in caretaker charge for Saturday’s League game at home to Doncaster with coaching assistance from Mike Procter, Phil Jevons and David Preece.
The 25-year-old owner wants to restore a club capable of attracting 30,000-plus gates in League One to the Premier League but first must find a manager to end their four-year stay in the third tier. Having run out of patience with Johnson in the wake of last Saturday’s 6-0 defeat at Bolton it is a decision he needs to get right.