Two names dominated conversations as Dick Advocaat’s potential successor in the prawn sandwich areas of the Stadium of Light last weekend.
The whispers among those within sitting distance of the club’s power-brokers revolved around Sam Allardyce and Nigel Pearson, even before the puff of smoke had emerged from the Stadium of Light chimney to confirm Advocaat’s exit.
No-one can genuinely raise any concerns about Allardyce’s ‘brand’ of football.
After leaving West Ham and Leicester respectively at the end of last season, both were free agents, plus had demonstrated their ability to keep clubs in the Premier League. Those assets held immediate appeal to Sunderland’s search for a sixth manager in four years.
All week, Allardyce looked the front-runner to fill that void and now Sunderland have got their man, in good time too, with a week to go still before they return to Premier League action.
Sitting five points adrift of safety, with players facing yet another induction period with a new manager - including seven who have only been at the Stadium of Light a matter of months - Sunderland required someone who could doggedly haul the club out of the doldrums and keep them in the top flight.
Style was always a distant second to substance in the hunt for Advocaat’s successor. Fans have recognised that too. Allardyce’s appointment last night was welcomed with almost overwhelming positivity because of it.
No-one can genuinely raise any concerns about Allardyce’s ‘brand’ of football when no-one really knows what ‘brand’ that Sunderland actually subscribe to these days after a jumble of styles from so many quick-fire occupants of the dug-out.
When Allardyce took charge at a similarly stricken Blackburn in 2008-09, they had 13 points from 17 games and beat the drop with a bit to spare by May.
He will be hailed a hero if he can do likewise again. That’s all that matters for Sunderland right now.
Allardyce is the pragmatic, sensible choice for a club who couldn’t afford to appoint a novice at this moment in time. He is exactly what is required.
Sunderland need discipline. They need organisation. Most of all, they need some defensive stability.
The 60-year-old has been keen to join Sunderland too after enquiring with Lee Congerton at the end of last season about the possibility of taking the post when Advocaat’s future looked uncertain.
After a week of speculation that Allardyce would reject Sunderland’s advances, Ellis Short was clearly keen to put that straight last night: “From the very beginning, he understood the importance of this job and showed great enthusiasm for the role and a desire to be part of moving this club forward.”
The imminent departure of Congerton removed one of the potential barriers to Allardyce’s appointment, with the director of football system seemingly now being made redundant.
Tellingly, Allardyce becomes the first “manager” at Sunderland since Martin O’Neill after three successive head coaches. He will have more powers because of it.
Allardyce’s previous as Newcastle boss is a complete non-issue, even if he will be questioned about it in the run-up to the Wear-Tyne derby in a fortnight.
No-one will be more motivated to secure a sixth successive win over the Magpies than Allardyce, whose spell at St James’s Park (and the manner of his departure) has continued to rankle with him over the last seven-and-a-half years.
If he can carry on the extraordinary pattern of winning the derby in the second match in charge - as Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and Advocaat have done - then Allardyce’s reign will quickly have some much-needed momentum.
Before that though, Sunderland face a huge clash at West Brom in seven days against one of their relegation rivals.
Allardyce at least has a full week to put plans in place for that trip to West Brom after Sunderland’s necessarily swift recruitment process to fill the void in the dug-out.
The ‘Little General’ Advocaat is no more. Now Sunderland need their new military strategist to steer them to ultimate victory.