O'Neill firm favourite to be Sunderland boss
Published 22:32 30/11/11 By Simon Bird
Martin O’Neill is ready to replace Steve Bruce as Sunderland boss.
The former Aston Villa boss is a firm front-runner to take charge of the club he supported as a boy.
Bruce was axed on Wednesday after two and a half years, with owner and chairman Ellis Short telling him that results were “simply not good enough.”
Short took the decision late on Tuesday night but slept on it before Bruce was summoned and given the news.
The American billionaire concluded that Bruce’s reign was untenable because of an alarming slump that puts them in a relegation fight, and that his bond with fans broken after the home defeat to Wigan on Saturday.
O’Neill will have to see off Mark Hughes in a showdown of two of the biggest names on the list of out-of-work managers.
Sunderland have made no approaches yet, and will consider a range of names, including managers who are in work.
However O’Neill, who knows Sunderland’s international director Niall Quinn, is the one who is regarded as the best immediate fit, and would be prepared to switch to the North-East.
Hughes will throw in his hat, pointing out he took Fulham to an eighth place finish last season, and did well at Blackburn.
The Welshman regards the fervour of Sunderland as a big step up from those two clubs and would be honoured to be considered.
He also wants to take on a job long term and leave behind a legacy of achievement.
Short will have no shortage of suitors, including Steve McClaren, who was quickly ruled out last time and may not delight the fans, Rafa Benitez and ex-USA national team coach Bob Bradley.
Key tasks for Bruce's successor will be reinvigorating a squad who have become stale and short of confidence and reconnecting with the Stadium of Light fans - leaving O’Neill as the initial favourite.
Short said in a statement: “Sadly, results this season have simply not been good enough and I feel the time is right to make a change.”
Bruce's assistant Eric Black will take charge of first team duties in the interim period, and will prepare the team for Sunday's match against Wolves.