Just when Niall Quinn and Sunderland thought things could get no worse, following a humiliating relegation in May and four straight Championship defeats, they were dumped out of the Carling Cup in the first round at Gigg Lane by a Bury side lying bottom of the entire League after losing every match.
Quinn, who has been wearing the hats of chairman and manager since leading the consortium that took over the club during the summer, announced afterwards that his reign as "gaffer" was likely to be over by the time Sunderland receive West Bromwich Albion at the Stadium of Light next Monday.
There was, he said, a "70-30 chance" that a new manager would be in place. "I'll revert back to chairman as soon as possible," added the former striker. The names of Sam Allardyce, Glenn Hoddle, David O'Leary and Alan Curbishley - the latter trio currently out of work - are sure to be mentioned on Wearside. However, Quinn described his target as "world class", prompting speculation about a foreign appointment.
Sunderland, who had been rebuffed by Kevin Phillips when he joined West Bromwich earlier in the day, started and finished calamitously. After only two and a half minutes, Arnau Riera was sent off for violent conduct. The former Barcelona B team captain, making his full debut, flailed an elbow at Chris Brass while Quinn was still perusing the programme.
The 10 men held out until the 82nd minute when John Fitzgerald, one of Bury's central defenders, headed in from a left-wing corner by Brian Barry-Murphy. Fitzgerald, cautioned during the first half, was dismissed for his celebrations, yet Bury added insult to ignominy when their captain, Andy Bishop, ran clear to stroke a second with two minutes remaining.
Bury had scarcely needed encouragement to attack a depleted, demoralised team. No sooner had Arnau departed than Kenny Cunningham and his keeper, Ben Alnwick, contrived a misunderstanding that let Nicky Adams in on goal. To the relief of the Sunderland following on the Cemetery End, he fired wide.
Jon-Paul Pittman also drove over from a good position as Sunderland struggled to regain their composure. For a time, until Liam Lawrence replaced the limping Stephen Wright, they were effectively playing with nine men. Stephen Elliott alone seemed immune to the collective dearth of confidence, his long-range drive before half-time forcing a sprawling parry from Alan Fettis with Daryl Murphy unable to turn in the loose ball.
Bury's growing ascendancy finally reaped an emphatic reward, easing the pressure on their own embattled manager, Chris Casper. As he addressed the press, Quinn talked animatedly on his mobile phone. He walked around the pitch in circles while he spoke, a feeling he knows only too well after a month in his dual role.
Bury (4-4-2): Fettis; Brass (Parrish, 80), Scott, Fitzgerald, Woodthorpe; Adams, Baker, Buchanan, Mattis (Barry- Murphy, 80); Pittman (Youngs, 57), Bishop. Substitutes not used: Collinge (gk), Flitcroft.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Alnwick; Wright (Lawrence, 37), N Collins, Cunningham, R Elliott (Stead, 83); Leadbitter, Whitehead, Arnau, Delap (D Collins, 69); S Elliott, Murphy. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Smith.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).Reuse content