Mike Dodds won't be the new Sunderland manager - but he's going to be invaluable to whoever is

The Black Cats made it two wins in two under their interim boss against Leeds United on Tuesday night.
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You're not making this easy, Mike. Sunderland's interim manager, who once again turned up in the dugout at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening looking as if he had coated himself in Pritt Stick and ran through the club shop, has now taken six points from two fiendishly tricky fixtures against West Brom and Leeds United in the span of less than a week. You can only imagine the lowing headaches in the boardroom. If he keeps this up much longer, a Dodds might end up being for life, not just for Christmas.

In many respects, the secret of his immediate impact is no real secret whatsoever. Through a combination of common sense and tactical flexibility, the caretaker has assumed the recognisable legacy of the Mowbray epoch and tweaked it ever so slightly in ways that many onlookers have been clamouring after for weeks on end. Alex Pritchard, for instance, registered a brace of assists in his cameo against West Brom on Saturday, and was duly rewarded with a start against Leeds, where, to absolutely nobody's astonishment, he once again turned provider for Jobe Bellingham's winning goal. There has also been a greater emphasis on the full-backs, Trai Hume and Niall Huggins, bombing on into attacking areas, and this too has only served to reanimate Sunderland's presence on the front foot.

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Even Dodds' in-game management has been admirable; Abdoulah Ba struggled for large swathes of Tuesday's contest, and the interim showed no hesitation in hooking him in favour of nutmeg turbo hobbit Patrick Roberts. Likewise, the introduction of Pierre Ekwah into the engine room allowed the aforementioned Jobe to push into a more advanced role, and ultimately pop like a Whac-A-Mole with the decisive strike. It is perhaps little wonder, therefore, that captain Luke O'Nien made such an overt point of dedicating Tuesday's hard-fought victory to the manager.

But despite two wholly impressive displays, and a level of touchline mastery that few could have envisioned, it is still difficult to imagine Dodds being offered the gig on a permanent basis. This is, in truth, probably a wise approach. After all, a couple of back-to-back victories do not a successful tenure make. The impression you get from the outside is that Sunderland's next appointment is likely to be some kind of continental data obsessive or other, and as convincing as Dodds' Thomas Tuchel cosplay is, he is not that.

Indeed, recent reports seem to suggest that it is Will Still, the frequently meme-ified, bi-lingual manager of Ligue 1 outfit Stade de Reims, who remains at the top of the Black Cats' ideal shortlist. With his white trainers, Football Manager fixation, and appearance on Jake Humphrey's High Performance podcast, he feels like a much more suitable hire for a board who are equal parts infatuated with corporate buzzword lingo and quarter-zip fleeces.

But regardless of who comes in on Wearside, this interim period with Dodds at the helm, however brief it may prove to be, should reassert beyond any doubt his value to the club. Changes in leadership can be turbulent, and it can take time for incoming managers to properly settle into their surroundings. Having a figure like Dodds in the background, easing that transition and acting as a bridge between the old and the new, will not hurt in the slightest.

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Here we have a coach who is evidently beloved by the dressing room, who knows the inner workings of the club better than most, and who is continually illustrating the deftness and aptitude of his footballing brain. He would, in short, be an asset to any regime, and whether it is Still, or any other candidate supposedly in the running for the vacancy, they would be well-advised to keep Dodds in their general vicinity upon arrival.

But then again, who knows? Football is a baffling, fickle beast, and if other viable options melt away like butter on a stove top, and - crucially - if Dodds can continue his eye-catching streak into upcoming clashes against the likes of Bristol City and their Coventry-centric namesakes, then maybe, just maybe, there is a slim chance that he could catapult himself into the running for the Sunderland job proper. It doesn't seem likely, but neither did taking six points from West Brom and Leeds...

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