Sunderland spring Ricky Sbragia surprise

27 December 2008 11:51
The 52-year-old Scot is highly regarded as a coach, having worked with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Sam Allardyce at Bolton, but he had never had sole charge of a senior team until taking over as caretaker when Roy Keane resigned earlier this month.

As such Sbragia's appointment represents a significant gamble, particularly given how many rookie managers have struggled in the Premier League this season.

Paul Ince and Juande Ramos, both starting a season in the English top flight for the first time, have already been sacked after poor runs of form, while Portsmouth are on the slide after a run of three wins from 14 games under the inexperienced Tony Adams.

Initial indications had suggested Sunderland were likely to appoint a foreign coach, with Sbragia perhaps staying on until the summer when more candidates would become available, but he has impressed in his caretaker capacity and clearly enjoys a rapport with the players. The centre-forward Djibril Cisse, in particular, has been vocal in his support for Sbragia, despite the former York defender's seeming reluctance to take the role.

Sunderland lost five of Keane's last six league games, slipping into the relegation zone, but after a narrow defeat at United, Sbragia's caretaker reign brought convincing wins over West Brom and Hull before Friday's goalless draw at home to Blackburn lifting the club to lower mid-table.

"We have been taken aback by how easily he has slotted into the managerial role and are really heartened by his intelligent approach in dealing with the players and the day to day rigours of the job," said chairman Niall Quinn.

Sbragia's first game after taking the job full-time comes this afternoon at Everton, where Sunderland lost 7-1 last season. "I was in the stand for that game," he said. "I was waiting to sign my contract at Sunderland after leaving Bolton. The first thing I did was send a message to Gary Megson asking if my old job was still available.

"We were too open that day. I think four of the goals came down the middle, and we kept going forward as though we thought we could win it 8-7. But we've got to put that out of our minds, and it would be nice to go back there and get something out of the game."

Five promotions from within which have failed to inspire.

Steve Wigley (Southampton) Departed after just 17 games Chris Hutchings (Wigan) Departed after just 13 games Sammy Lee (Bolton) Departed after just 14 games Steve McClaren (England) Sacked after failure to qualify for Euro 2008Tony Adams (Portsmouth) Three wins so far from 13 matches

Source: Telegraph