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Finally, rumours that Sunderland have lined up one of their former strikers, the Rangers forward Ally McCoist, as player-manager for next season were dismissed by the Wearsiders chairman John Featherstone and present incumbent Mick Buxton after yesterday's 1-0 defeat at Charlton.

"The speculation over people taking over my job doesn't disturb me," Buxton said. "I think I've got too much character to be bothered by that. In any case, what's new? There's always people linked with the Sunderland job.

"I don't accept it's a relegation dog fight for us," he added. "I am convinced my players can get us up the table."