Quinn 'thrilled' at Black Cats revival under Sbragia

Sunderland chairman expects his manager to be around for the long haul
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The Independent Football

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has predicted that manager Ricky Sbragia will remain in charge at the Stadium of Light beyond his current 18-month contract.

The 52-year-old has fully rewarded Quinn's faith in him by steadily dragging the Black Cats away from relegation trouble since he was asked to step into the gap left by the surprise resignation of Roy Keane in December.

Quinn said: "Everyone is thrilled with the way it's working out. Ricky has put his own stamp on it, he's working hard and he has a great approach to the job. Results have been good and the team is playing better.

"Ricky has signed a kind of half-way house contract, 18 months, to give him a feel of it, for both sides to be happy with where we are going. But I would envisage him being here a lot longer."

Sunderland were in danger of slipping into the fight for Premier League survival when Keane ended his stay on Wearside in the wake of a 4-1 home defeat by Bolton on 29 November, a fifth reverse in six league matches.

Sbragia steadied the ship almost immediately, seeing his side come within minutes of an unlikely point at Manchester United in his first game in charge before Nemanja Vidic snatched victory at the death, and then guiding them to successive wins over West Bromwich Albion and Hull City.

It has not all been plain sailing since, but a run of just one defeat in their last six league games, culminating in a battling 0-0 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, has eased the Wearsiders eight points clear of the bottom three.

Under their new manager, they have taken 16 points from a possible 33, and a continuation of that form over their remaining 12 fixtures would surely see them consolidate their mid-table position.

Quinn's backing comes just days after Keane used his first interview since leaving the Stadium of Light to criticise the influence of major shareholder Ellis Short and the chairman's concern at the lack of smiles on players' faces.

However, while Sbragia's approach is perhaps more relaxed than that of his predecessor, he had no qualms about moving on Pascal Chimbonda and El Hadji Diouf, who had run into disciplinary trouble under the Irishman.

Quinn also revealed the club were already looking towards the next transfer window and Sbragia was looking very closely at players Sunderland would be interested in bringing in. He added: "We always have a plan around six months ahead. One of the interesting things about the recent transfer window is that Ricky got the job just before it opened.

"He didn't want to sign players he had not seen personally and that was reflected in his policy. Of the players who came in, Tal Ben Haim worked with Ricky at Bolton and we have seen Calum Davenport play week in, week out.

"We will see what those loan deals come to at the end of the season. Ricky is already scouting for next season. Clubs always take a punt on buying a player but Ricky wants his punt to be as structured as possible."