IT'S more than three months since Michael Beale's disastrous short-term Sunderland tenure came to an end but it's still not known who'll replace him in the Stadium of Light dugout.

The Black Cats are understood to still be going through the process of speaking to and assessing candidates to become the club's next head coach.

At this stage it remains unclear when Sunderland hope to have a new head coach in place, with the squad set to return to the Academy of Light at the end of June.

But this week has seen a chain of events which could potentially impact Sunderland's search with movement regarding a number of those candidates including Bo Svensson, Danny Rohl, Will Still and Paul Heckingbottom.

What does it all mean for Sunderland? Here's the current state of play with the known candidates - and the prospect of new names emerging.


Will Still

Still was on Sunderland's radar back in December following the departure of Tony Mowbray but at the time was still in charge of Stade de Reims so the interest didn't develop.

There was a twist earlier this month when the 31-year-old left the French top flight club, prompting inevitable Sunderland speculation.

Still has previously made it clear he'd be willing to take a job in the Championship, which is probably his best hope as things stand of achieving his dream of managing in England, with a Premier League job feeling unlikely at this stage.

Still has been linked with Norwich City over the course of the last week since David Wagner was sacked after their convincing play-off semi-final second leg defeat to Leeds United and remains a short price with the bookies to take charge at Carrow Road after reports suggesting Still has held discussions in Norfolk.



It comes as Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot this week opened up on Still's exit.

He said: “Will Still, it’s a very beautiful story, a very beautiful meeting. He matched the profile we wanted. But then, it’s a bit of a risk when you take on young people.

“Here, at Stade de Reims, we give young people a chance at all levels, whether players or staff, and when we have young people, we have to accept at times that they make mistakes.

“I think that the ‘Will Still effect’ meant that there were a lot of communications from him, a lot of requests. A more experienced coach would have protected himself more, and he went from being a nice guy with a fresh air, to someone who was a little lost in his communication and this was felt in his management of the team.”

He added: “For six months, we could see that it was not the Will Still that we had chosen for over a year now, that things had changed. It was hard to imagine how the story could continue.

“I am not at the origin of his departure, I am rather at his conclusion. After the Clermont match (Still's final game in charge) he said to me: ‘I have no more words, I don't know how to do it anymore.’

“He asked me for an interview with his agent and his dad. Following this interview, which was carried out in complete serenity, we came to the conclusion that we had to know how to stop the story and everyone was very fair on their part.”

Sunderland's pursuit of Still has been elongated but they now face competition to secure his services. 


Danny Rohl

Sunderland aren't the only club who have been monitoring Rohl's developments after the German's superb work in guiding Sheffield Wednesday to Championship safety this season.

Rohl took 50 points from his 35 games in charge at Hillsborough which culminated in survival on the final day of the campaign following their 2-0 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, where it was confirmed the 35-year-old was set for contract discussions over the coming weeks with negotiations continuing after Rohl returned from holiday earlier this month.



And the Owls have fought off interest from other clubs with Rohl now having agreed to a new three-year contract at Hillsborough. Rohl held talks with owner Dejphon Chansiri following the end to the Championship season before reconvening after the German returned from holiday earlier this month with the pair aligned over Rohl's vision for the club both on and off the field.

“I am delighted that Danny will be continuing his managerial journey with our club," said Chansiri.

“The impact he made when he joined was immediate and was the foundation for preserving our place in the Championship.

“He has forged a special relationship with our supporters in the short space of time he has been here and now this journey continues.

“The hard work preparing for next season is already underway, it was important to secure Danny’s services on a well-deserved new contract and I am delighted this is now in place.”

Rohl said: "This is a fantastic club that has taken me to heart and I feel exactly the same way.

“It was never in my mind to be anywhere else but Hillsborough. I feel at home here, the fans have been incredible, they have shown myself and my staff nothing but kindness since the first day.

“I would like to thank the chairman for giving me this opportunity and now we are excited to look forward and can plan ahead together for the new season.

“The way we finished last season was amazing, so much hard work came to fruition but we do not stop here. We must continue to show the same effort levels and desire for the future, the chairman is ambitious, I am ambitious and our fantastic supporters are ambitious too.”

Rohl's contract was understood to run until next year, but any clubs interested would reportedly have had to pay £5million in compensation - and double that if he was joined by close-knit coaching team which means a deal to bring Rohl to the Stadium of Light always seemed unlikely.


Bo Svensson

Svensson emerged as a surprise target for Sunderland earlier this month but the 44-year-old former Denmark international is now off the market after agreeing to become new head coach with Union Berlin.

Svensson was set for talks earlier this week before confirmation of his appointment was revealed on Thursday after the club's new managing director Horst Heldt declared the 44-year-old as a 'dream' candidate via Sky Germany.

"In close consultation with Oliver Ruhnert and Horst Heldt, we decided on a new sporting start in the summer and are convinced that Bo Svensson is a coach who is a good fit to our club," said Dirk Zingler, President of Union Berlin.

"I'm looking forward to working with him and I'm sure that together with the team he can ensure that we play a good role in the Bundesliga."

Svensson added on being appointed: "I've been watching Union for a long time and I'm sure I'll find good conditions here for successful work. The unity that Union radiate, and the togetherness between the team, fans, staff and club management, is a very important factor.

"I'm looking forward to the road ahead of us and will do everything I can to ensure that we have a successful season."

Svensson started his coaching career in the Austrian second tier with FC Liefering, a feeder club for Red Bull Salzburg. He was then appointed as the head coach of Bundesliga side Mainz in January 2021.

He inherited a side struggling in the relegation zone, but led Mainz to safety in the second half of the season before presiding over successive top-half finishes in his two full seasons in charge. He stepped down by mutual consent last November, with Mainz having made a poor start to the season, and has remained out of work since.


Paul Heckingbottom

Another Sunderland candidate said to be holding talks with another club this week is Heckingbottom.

He was reportedly set to be interviewed by Plymouth Argyle, one of four Championship clubs - including Sunderland - who are on the lookout for a new boss.

Plymouth were keen on Liam Rosenior but were knocked back by the 39-year-old after his Hull City sacking. Argyle are considering Championship experience and were understood to have turned to Heckingbottom, who has been out of work since being sacked by Sheffield United in December.

Heckingbottom faces competition to land the role at Home Park, however, after reports emerged linking former Manchester United and England forward, and ex-Birmingham City head coach, Wayne Rooney with a shock return to management. Rooney has been out of work since being sacked at St. Andrew's after just 15 games in charge when replacing John Eustace, with Birmingham, eventually, being relegated to League One.



Heckingbottom is admired by Sunderland's hierarchy and was a candidate to take charge when Alex Neil got the job in 2022, as well as being under consideration in December.

Heckingbottom is a Championship promotion winner and has experience of working with young players having previously been in charge of Sheffield United's Under-23s.


Rene Maric

Rene Maric is another foreign coach to have been linked with the Stadium of Light vacancy towards the end of the season.

Maric had time as an assistant in England with Leeds under Jesse Marsch during the 2022-23 season before the American was sacked in February 2023. Maric has spells with Red Bull Salzburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund on his CV before taking up his current role with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich as the club's under-19s head coach.

Bayern's sporting director Christoph Freund brought Maric to lead coaching development and game planning, where the Austrian has been working as a link between the first team and youth set-up. The 31-year-old is viewed as one of the upcoming brightest brains in European football and given his exposure to developing players at such a high level, the appeal to Sunderland is understandable given the club's philosophy to recruit younger players and develop them.

Sunderland could, however, face a potential stumbling block when it comes to Maric depending on the outcome of Bayern's upcoming head coach appointment. Burnley's Vincent Kompany looks set to be the man to replace Thomas Tuchel in Bavaria with negotiations with the former Manchester City captain understood to have progressed well this week.



Kompany may take a number of his staff from Turf Moor with him but reports in Germany suggest Maric could be promoted from his current role as under-19s head coach to an assistant role with Kompany. Any such move could impact Sunderland's advances on the Austrian, despite his ambitions of becoming a head coach in the future.


Liam Rosenior

It's not known whether Rosenior is an outright candidate for the Sunderland vacancy but he's available after his surprise Hull exit and he's undoubtedly appealing to clubs after his fine work at the MKM Stadium.

He guided Hull away from relegation trouble after taking charge and only missed out on a top six finish by three points this season but was sacked just three months after signing a new three-year deal.

Explaining the decision, Acun Ilicali said: "Liam is a very good coach and will be very successful. There are so many positive things.

"At the end of the day, me and my team are dreaming of something for this club and there is a football style that we want to see on the pitch.

"Liam's football philosophy is very good and may be successful but we didn't see it suiting our character for the future."



Rosenior clearly wasn't on Sunderland's radar when the search for a head coach got underway, but if the Black Cats failed to land one or two targets, could he come into their thinking? Rosenior is believed to have turned down the opportunity to take charge at Plymouth while also distancing himself from the Birmingham role in League One, with his former Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion credited with an interest following Roberto de Zerbi's exit. 


Could unnamed candidates emerge?

It's extremely probable that Sunderland are also assessing a candidate or candidates whose names have been kept under wraps.

If that was the case, in all probability, they'd be overseas contenders. Whether more names will emerge in the coming days or weeks is unclear at this stage, but there's every chance if - as detailed above - other candidates become unavailable elsewhere.

It's unlikely at this stage that Sunderland's hierarchy would consider head coach candidates who aren't yet on their radar but, as proved by the Rosenior developments at Hull, unforeseen twists can result in surprise availability.

With each passing week, there's more pressure on Sunderland to get not only the right man but a head coach who, given the mood in the fanbase after the disappointment of recent months, excites the supporters.