Stoke announced earlier this week that Michael O’Neill had been sacked after a disappointing start to the season for the Potters, which has seen them pick up just four points from their opening five league fixtures.
Sunderland may well have been a catalyst in the Northern Irishman losing his job, as Ross Stewart’s goal saw the Black Cats pick up three points away to Stoke last weekend.
Unfortunately, that win may have proved costly for the Wearsiders, as Sky Sports journalist Keith Downie has now provided an update on the Potters’ search for a new manager.
He tweeted on Friday morning: “Understand Sunderland boss Alex Neil has been given permission to speak to Stoke over their vacant managerial position. O’Neill was sacked by The Potters yesterday, and Neil’s stock is high following an impressive 6 months at SAFC. “
Downie added: “I’m told Sunderland are hoping they can keep Neil and internal conversations are taking place on those grounds”, also stating: “Expecting talks to take place between Neil & Stoke today. Terrible timing for Sunderland on the eve of the visit of Norwich. However, I’m told Neil isn’t the only manager Stoke are considering.”
Neil has been a revelation since joining Sunderland last season, helping the Black Cats to earn promotion from League One via the play-offs before starting the new campaign in excellent fashion.
The Black Cats currently sit in the Championship play-off places after losing just one of their opening five matches, with wins against Stoke and Bristol City to their name.
The former Preston boss has won 12 of his 24 games in charge at the Stadium of Light, losing just three times, which shows that he has made Sunderland a very difficult team to beat, and it would be a significant blow if he were to depart after such an impressive start to the new campaign.
Sunderland-supporting journalist Josh Bunting may have summed up the views of many on Wearside regarding Neil’s potential departure, tweeting: “If Sunderland allow this to happen, If and big if Alex Neil moves on. Then the board and owners need to be seriously questioned. He’s been the best manager at this club for many years and to let him go if he does this easily would be an absolute shambles. Would be a disgrace.”
Therefore, plenty of Black Cats supporters will surely be desperately hoping that the popular Neil rejects Stoke in order to stay at Sunderland this summer, as it would undoubtedly harm their club’s chances of a good season if they were forced to swap managers so early in the campaign as they become reacquainted with life back in the Championship.