Football: Sunderland dismiss Crosby

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The Independent Online
BRYAN ROBSON, Terry Butcher, Joe Jordan and Phil Neal head an illustrious cast of potential candidates for the post of Sunderland manager following the dismissal of Malcolm Crosby yesterday - only nine months after he led them to the FA Cup final.

The Roker Park board, who announced that Crosby had 'vacated his position', have asked his coach, the former Ipswich manager Bobby Ferguson, to take temporary charge. They will convene this week, when the merits of the above quartet, plus those of Neil Warnock, Brian Little and Dave Bassett, are likely to be discussed.

If Kevin Keegan's impact at Newcastle tempts Sunderland into seeking similar charisma, then Robson, from nearby Chester-le- Street, would be a popular choice. The player's desire to help Manchester United win the championship would be the stumbling block. Butcher, whom Crosby made captain, has a rapport with the fans and experience in management, albeit short-lived, with Coventry.

Jordan's position at Heart of Midlothian, where he has delayed signing a new contract pending financial assurances, has been noted at Roker. Neal, who combines work as Bobby Gould's No 2 at Coventry with coaching England, has equally impressive credentials.

Warnock was often linked with Sunderland during Crosby's 277- day tenure. He is available after being sacked last month by Notts County, who confirmed Mick Walker as manager until the end of the season yesterday. Little, a North-easterner now in charge at Leicester, and Bassett, the Sheffield United manager, also have admirers among the Roker hierarchy.

Crosby, who stood on the Wembley terraces as a Sunderland fan at the 1973 FA Cup final, leaves them 17th in the First Division - exactly their position when he replaced Denis Smith on a caretaker basis 13 months ago. Ironically, Smith was sacked by Bristol City a fortnight ago.

Clamour for Crosby's appointment to be made 'permanent' grew as Sunderland advanced on Wembley, where they eventually lost to Liverpool.

However, when the board's offer of a contract came, last April, it was for one year only, betraying the tenuous nature of their support.

Nevertheless, Crosby was taken aback by the timing of his demise. Saturday's game at Tranmere was postponed, making him probably the first manager to be ousted after a Pools Panel defeat. He becomes the 12th manager to vacate his position this season.

'It's the first time I've ever been sacked so it's quite a shock,' Crosby said. 'But you can't sit and mope around. You've got to try and get back into coaching or management. I've got a wife and children - so I have to get on with life.'