THE BLOG

Sunderland: More Than a Club

26/09/2013 16:55 BST | Updated 26/11/2013 10:12 GMT

When Sunderland parted company with Paolo Di Canio on Sunday, many cited the Italian's style of management for his dismissal - falling out with big characters in the dressing room as well as publicly denouncing his players. Granted, this coupled with a string of bad results didn't help his cause, but a filthy cloud lurks above Sunderland as a club and how they are run above management level.

Di Canio was the eighth manager to be dismissed since Peter Reid left the club in the Fall of 2002 and he isn't the first to completely overhaul the squad with his own set of players.

Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, and Martin O'Neill have spent hundreds of millions between them, all with relatively little success. Though their tactical styling's are not miles apart, the squad went through major changes with each managerial change.

Roy Keane got the ball rolling by accumulating a whopping £90m-plus transfer bill during his spell in charge. Despite early success - promotion as champions despite being second-bottom when he took over - he failed to stabilise the club in the top-flight and lost his job in December 2008 before he could spend any more of the consortium's money.

Steve Bruce eventually took over after Ricky Sbragia's disastrous short tenure and continued spending heavily in Keane's honour, racking up a £60m bill for the club before being dismissed late in 2011.

There seemed to be no plan in place other than to bring in a manger that had impressed them for the short-term. A club doesn't exist on staff alone; it must have an ethos, a mission, principles, and most of all, a plan for the future. This has been lacking from Sunderland in recent times and although they have had many a fine player in the Premier League era - Kevin Phillips, Michael Gray, Niall Quinn - they have failed to nail down a positive style and consistent style of play.

All this was supposed to change when their prodigal son finally arrived on Wearside in 2011. A fan of the club as a boy, if anyone knew how Sunderland should play football and what the fans wanted to see, surely it would be Martin O'Neill.

Coming off the back of relatively successful spells at Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa, the man who studied under one of the greatest managers the game has seen in Brian Clough was all set to take Sunderland to the next level.

O'Neill didn't waste any time in making his mark at his boyhood club, taking 22 points from his first 10 games to steer the club into the top-half of the table. This form was supported by the board, who again seemed more than happy to allow the manager to take control of the transfer proceedings and have Sunderland play his way.

O'Neill brought in 14 new players during the summer transfer window for the 2012/13 season, but found his side underperforming in the league and flirting with relegation.

Another manager. Another disorganised campaign. Another disappointment for the loyal support.

Not only did the club lack character, so did the manager. O'Neill followed in Bruce and Keane's footsteps by leaving the Stadium of Light behind, all failing to give the club a consistent future.

With the fans vying for passion and personality from the team they loved, the board reacted with a controversial appointment, and one that has shown that a manager can only be a short-term fix for the club.

Going back to the earlier statement that a club must have character flowing through every level to be successful, you can only look at Swansea as a prime example for this.

Only six years ago the Welsh side were battling it out in the third tier of English football, before Huw Jenkins built a formula for success. Jenkins decided that consistency was the key, not only with players, but also throughout the whole of the club.

Swansea would play a certain way, and even throughout staff changes, would adhere to the newly formed principles of the club: possessive attacking football. This ethos took a while to get going, but really took off when Roberto Martinez took over from Kenny Jackett in 2007, winning promotion from League One in his first full season in charge and influencing the club greatly with his continental style of coaching.

He, along with Jenkins, laid the foundations for what Swansea have become and for everything they will go on to achieve. Even with a change of manager, the board know what type of manager to look for; when they lose a goalkeeper, they know who to replace him with; when Michu eventually leaves, they will have a perfect replacement waiting in the wings. It means that even with change comes stability and this is something that is clearly lacking at Sunderland.

The money spent at the club and the success it has failed to bring cannot be put solely in the hands of the club's previous managers - the board and investors must take into account that they have failed to provide a brand for the manager to work from.

Di Canio may have had complications in the dressing room, and his personality will take much of the flack for his failures. However, until a plan is put in place that runs deeper than just bringing a manager in and letting him pick the side, dark clouds will continue to hover over the Stadium of Light.