Sunderland inundated with managerial applications

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The Independent Football

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has been inundated with applications from around the world for the manager's job vacated by Roy Keane.

Within hours of the 37-year-old's departure, Quinn, who had earlier reluctantly accepted his former Republic of Ireland team-mate's resignation, was being contacted by prospective replacements.

It is understood a growing list of candidates includes several with impressive pedigrees, a measure of the way in which Keane helped to raise the club's profile during his 27 months at the helm.

When Quinn and his Drumaville partners started the process of recruiting a manager back in the summer of 2006, they were unable to persuade the likes of Sam Allardyce, Martin O'Neill and Alan Curbishley their future lay at the Stadium of Light.

However, club insiders are confident this time around, they have the pulling power to attract a man with a proven track record, and that in part is down to the foundations laid by Keane during his time on Wearside.

Allardyce, who opted to stay with Bolton three summers ago, has already indicated his interest in the post after 11 months out of work following his departure from Newcastle.

The 54-year-old did little to enhance his reputation at St James' Park, where he was in charge for just eight months, but he enjoys popular support on Wearside.

Allardyce made 27 appearances for the club between July 1980 and September the following year, and worked as Peter Reid's youth manager between September 1996 and January 1997.

The Dudley-born boss currently leads the betting with former Bolton assistant Phil Brown having distanced himself from the vacancy.

Curbishley also has support among the club's fans, while Celtic's Gordon Strachan has attracted money, as has former England manager Steve McClaren, currently in charge at Dutch side FC Twente, although he is not thought to be in the running.

Sunderland are understood to be looking for an experienced man and hope to have Keane's successor in place long before the busy Christmas programme gets under way.

In the meantime, coach Ricky Sbragia will be in charge when the Wearsiders run out against his former club Manchester United tomorrow evening hoping to end a run of six defeats in seven games against the odds.

He admitted yesterday's news had come as a shock.

Sbragia told the club's official website, "It was a big surprise, I didn't know until yesterday morning.

"We knew he [Keane] was mulling things over, but yesterday's news was not expected, it was very sudden.

"We are sad to see him go. Roy Keane was part of the reason I came to Sunderland, and I wish he had stayed.

"Niall spoke to me and asked if I would take over in the short term, it's not a problem.

"Niall spoke to the players yesterday and put them in the picture. They were upset, but we have a game on Saturday and we have to be focused and prepare properly."

Sbragia will be without the suspended Kieran Richardson, while keeper Craig Gordon is out after aggravating his ankle problem in last weekend's 4-1 home defeat by Bolton.

The Black Cats slipped into the relegation zone as a result of a reverse which proved the final straw for Keane, and while few would expect them to arrest their decline at Old Trafford, the three fixtures which follow - home games against West Brom and Blackburn either side of a trip to Hull - could have a major say in the destiny of their season.

Sbragia said: "I never thought I would be in the dug-out at Manchester United managing a Sunderland team.

"When I left Sunderland to go to United, I thought it was an honour and a privilege.

"I had three great years there, I was only enticed away because of the chance to do first-team coaching, otherwise I feel I would still be there.

"I don't think Sir Alex [Ferguson] will be worried about me, to be honest. He's a great manager and great person as well.

"All I can say is when I was there, he was fantastic to me."