Those obituaries appear to have been premature. As Sunderland continued their deliberations over who will succeed him yesterday, Roy Keane declared that he does anticipate returning to the game in the future. "I have experienced and learnt a tremendous amount in the last 27 months and enjoyed the rigours of being a manager," said Keane in a statement released via the League Managers Association. "I look forward to building on those experiences and, sometime in the future, returning to football management."
There had been doubts as to whether Keane would manage again after his departure last week, chairman Niall Quinn describing how, though "his compelling nature changed mind-sets", the pressure for him had been "intense."
Sunderland's shortlist of candidates to replace Keane will be drawn up later this week but former manager Peter Reid will not be on it, leaving Sam Allardyce still out in front as favourite. Reid, currently in charge of the Thailand national team, said yesterday that he was ready to return to Wearside, where he spent seven largely successful years during the 1990s. But he clarified his position after watching Thailand beat Laos 6-0 at the Suzuki Cup in Phuket. "I said that in a certain amount of time I want go back to England," Reid said. "But I have a contract in Thailand that I want to fulfil.
"I didn't say I wanted to go back to Sunderland. I haven't been offered the job at Sunderland and I will not take it if I am offered it. I haven't asked for the job at Sunderland."
Quinn and his fellow board members are understood to be assessing 33 serious candidates before meeting to reduce the field to a handful of contenders. There is no guarantee an appointment will be made before Saturday's crucial home game with bottom side West Bromwich Albion, which could mean an extended stay at the helm for coach Ricky Sbragia and assistants Neil Bailey and Dwight Yorke.
Allardyce remains the bookmakers' favourite, but sources on Wearside have suggested he does not necessarily enjoy the same status with the men who will make the decision. He and second favourite Alan Curbishley were in Sunderland's sights before Keane was appointed in August 2006.
But with American investor Ellis Short apparently taking a hands-on approach, there is a growing feeling that the club are taking a broader view this time around. Former Chelsea boss Avram Grant is leading a list of overseas candidates in the betting stakes, with Martin Jol and Gerard Houllier. Ex-England manager Steve McClaren, like Hull boss Phil Brown before him, has ruled himself out as he continues to rebuild his reputation in Holland with FC Twente.
Keane has received an apology from Short following an attack on him made by Per-Magnus Andersson, president of Kitano Capital, the American asset management company used by Short last summer to acquire a significant stake from the club's Irish owners, the Drumaville consortium. Andersson described Keane as a "maverick", a description Short disassociates himself and the club from.