Deal agreed for Keane to take reins at Sunderland

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The Independent Football

Roy Keane may once have described Niall Quinn as a "muppet", but that did not stop the Irishman from last night accepting his compatriot's offer to become the new Sunderland manager.

A hectic day of negotiations on Wearside culminated in an agreement being thrashed out for the Irishman to return to football in his first coaching role.

It represents a leap of faith by both parties as an untried manager known for his combustible approach to dealing with colleagues prepares to join a club on its knees. It promises to be anything but dull in the coming months at the Stadium of Light, and could quite easily all end in tears.

Keane will sign a rolling contract, believed to be in the region of £2m a year, to replace Quinn as manager, with pen set to be put to paper at the culmination of this afternoon's Championship visit by West Bromwich Albion. Sunderland are confident that even a sixth successive defeat to start the campaign will not force the 35-year-old into a last-minute change of heart.

Keane's presence is expected to swell the attendance towards 40,000, with supporters keen to welcome the man charged with the unenviable task of casting aside the club's reputation as perennial underachievers in an attempt to establish them among the Premiership élite.

"Roy Keane visited Sunderland today, where he met with players and officials," a club statement released last night said. It added: " Keane and the club have agreed terms for him to be appointed as manager and it's envisaged he will sign a formal contract immediately after Sunderland's game against West Brom."

The Irish-backed Drumaville consortium headed by Quinn is expected to fund Keane to the tune of £15m to bolster a squad which has looked woefully inept at times this season. Most of the former Manchester United midfielder's work, however, will have to be undertaken in the next transfer window, as the current one closes on Thursday, just 48 hours after the new man officially takes his post.

However, sources close to the club suggest Keane already has targets in mind, and has not ruled out the possibility of moving swiftly to add to the squad in time for his first match in charge, the Championship visit to Derby County on 9 September. Further ahead lies a meeting with his Republic of Ireland nemesis Mick McCarthy, when Sunderland travel to Wolves at the end of November.

Keane had long since buried the hatchet with Quinn over the 39-year-old's perceived role in his high-profile banishment from the 2002 World Cup by McCarthy, when in an autobiography he labelled the Sunderland chairman as a "coward" and a "muppet".

After unsuccessful attempts to lure Martin O'Neill and Sam Allardyce, last night's developments represent a coup for Quinn, who will happily step down from his dual role after an unhappy few weeks as manager.

Keane gave his decision after meeting the Sunderland squad yesterday to briefly outline his plans to transform the club, who were relegated last season.

His presence in the directors' box today will give an underperforming squad an immediate opportunity to persuade Keane that root and branch changes are not required to help them start climbing the table.

However, as last Tuesday's Carling Cup humiliation by League Two strugglers Bury highlighted, confidence levels are at an all-time low, and Keane is expected to use his standing in the game to help to attract several new signings to Wearside over the coming months.

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