Keane back in football as manager of Sunderland

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He's back, and this time he doesn't merely think he's in charge, he really is. According to reports last night, Sunderland are on the verge of appointing Roy Keane as their new manager, handing the fiery Irishman, who turned 35 earlier this month, his first managerial appointment just two months after he hung up his boots after an illustrious 17-year playing career.

Keane gained the necessary coaching badges this summer and is now poised to return to the game in charge of a club who are currently propping up the Championship with no points from their first four league games.

The former Manchester United captain is set to be reunited at the Stadium of Light with his former Republic of Ireland team-mate, Niall Quinn, who is chairman of Sunderland and has been manager for the early games of the season. Quinn is understood to have been in talks with Keane for the past week.

Keane reportedly agreed yesterday to take up the challenge and his appointment is expected to be confirmed within the next 48 hours.

Keane will probably take charge for the first time at Monday's home match with West Bromwich Albion, coincidentally managed by Bryan Robson, also a former Old Trafford captain and hero.

Sunderland's 2-0 defeat to Bury in the League Cup on Tuesday was the last straw for Quinn as a manager. He immediately promised to bring in a " world-class" manager, leaving himself free to concentrate on his duties as chairman. While nobody would doubt Keane's status, at his peak, as a world-class player, a job in the dugout marks a journey into the unknown.

Keane, who played almost 500 times for United, ended his playing career with his boyhood heroes Celtic, joining them in December last year. He managed only 12 starts, 10 of them in the SPL as Celtic romped to the title, before announcing in June that he had retired from professional football on medical advice.

Quinn has promised to deliver "someone who will will give the people the lift they need". He confirmed in the wake of the Bury defeat that he hoped to have the new man in place within days. He declined to name his target, but the appointment cannot come quickly enough for disgruntled fans.

"I stepped into the role [as manager] because we didn't get the quality of manager I thought we would, but we are now getting very close to that," he said on Tuesday evening. "I didn't like to put the players under pressure in the last month by saying I was still looking, but I know my role here is best as chairman.

"I would say in the coming days, maybe over the weekend, we may have better news. We have tracked a would-be manager for the last four weeks and we are getting closer. I can't name him as there is nothing done yet. I would reassure fans of the commitment and the effort of the group of people who have backed this club. We think we have someone who will give the people the real lift they need and we will give him the budget he deserves."

"It has been hard in the transfer market. We are way behind, but I would hope by Monday I can say 70-30 we will have a world-class manager in place. The chances are I won't be in charge for the next match. I have been working very hard behind the scenes with my group to get a new manager, and he can't come soon enough."

Kevin Phillips' decision to head for West Bromwich instead of returning to Sunderland came as a big blow to Quinn, but was symptomatic of the difficulties Quinn has had in recruiting new signings without a proven manager in place.

Quinn has completed the capture of the French midfielder William Mocquet and hopes to push through moves for the Luxembourg international defender Jeff Strasser and Swedish winger Tobias Hysen in the next 24 hours.

But the influx of quality signings which fans hoped would follow the consortium's arrival has so far failed to materialise.

Until, perhaps, now. It seems Roy's back. And this time, as ever, he's sure to be serious.

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