Surely there are no more surprises to come in Sunderland’s boss hunt saga – as Derek McInnes’s holistic approach is hailed

Derek McInnes.
Derek McInnes.

A relatively simple process, but one that ended up involving its fair share of drama.

Sunderland spent yesterday continuing to discuss a potential compensation deal for Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes and his assistant, Tony Docherty.

All had seemed to be progressing well, if a touch slowly, before Aberdeen’s new major shareholder addressed the press.

Fresh from selling his software company for close to £600milion last year, lifelong Dons fan Dave Cormack confirmed his major investment and a place on the board only on Tuesday.

A day later, his task was to respond to the fierce speculation over the Pittodrie manager’s future, and his response was surprisingly bullish and defiant given how Aberdeen had closed ranks in the previous weeks.

“Derek is 100% focused on the team for next year. He’s on vacation just now, but he’s not really getting one because he’s working with the team on player recruitment,” he said.

“Derek is under contract at Aberdeen for two years. He and his family are happy here, no team has been given permission to talk to Derek.

“To talk to him, there are certain conditions that have to be met, financially or otherwise. Two, Derek needs to want to talk to them, but that’s the order.

“We don’t need their money at all. We had a board meeting yesterday and the money is there [for the future].”

Cormack did, however, concede that he was in the dark as to whether 45-year-old McInnes wanted the Sunderland job, and that he would not tie any employee down when they wanted to be somewhere else.

“I don’t know, I joined the board yesterday and I will leave the chairman to deal with that,” he said.

“His team have done an incredible job over the last four years and he is a very astute individual.

“Keep Sunderland and Derek aside for one minute – I know, through bitter experience, that trying to keep any employee with my companies, forcing somebody to stay doesn’t work for anyone.

“What I would say is we would move heaven and earth to keep Derek here, but it’s not just down to money. He’s a very astute individual.

“I’ve had the opportunity to chat with him a couple of weeks ago, and he takes a holistic approach to a football club – he doesn’t just think of the football operation and event the sports science, he thinks of the marketing, the communication with supporters, the off-field stuff, and that’s a rarity.

“We would do our utmost – if there was permission given to any team, and he wanted to consider it – to pull out all the stops to keep him.”

They may well yet do their best.

Sunderland will still have to convince McInnes that it is the right decision for his career to leave a stable, well funded, competitive club and come to a side where uncertainty reigns.

He has failed once south of the border, at Bristol City, and knows he cannot afford to do so again.

Common sense suggests, however, that yesterday’s developments mean the Black Cats are confident that the former West Brom midfielder’s mind is privately made up, that the size and potential of Sunderland is worth taking a gamble on.

He will know how well he will be received should he build a competitive, hard-working side at the Stadium of Light.

The day ended with Aberdeen fans, whose hopes had been raised ever so slightly in the morning, in despair.

Sunderland fans, at long last, were able to look forward with a cautious optimism.

There are surely no more surprises to come in this protracted search.