Sunderland chairman Bob Murray today handed former midfield enforcer Kevin Ball to task of restoring the club's battered pride after sacking manager Mick McCarthy.
Ball has been installed as caretaker mananger until the end of the season following an unceremonious end to McCarthy's three-year reign.
McCarthy was dismissed this morning after yesterday's 2-1 Barclays Premiership defeat at Manchester City which left the club rooted to the foot of the table with just 10 points and with only 10 games to play.
"We have appointed Kevin Ball caretaker manager until the end of the season and hope that supporters will give him their full backing," Murray told the club's official website, www.safc.com.
"Kevin has always felt passionately about Sunderland and is a true professional. His grit, determination and leadership qualities have always been greatly appreciated by Sunderland fans and the club.
"Sunderland supporters have been incredibly tolerant and supportive in the last few months, which have been very difficult, and I would also like to thank them for that.
"Now is the time to give Kevin Ball and the team support to try to get back to winning ways."
Ball's immediate task will be to raise spirits for Saturday's clash with fellow promoted side Wigan at the Stadium of Light, for which skipper Gary Breen will be suspended after being sent off at Eastlands.
The Black Cats have won only two league games all season, neither on Wearside, and time is fast running out to give the fans something to cheer.
Today's announcement, or at least the timing of it, came as a surprise with many expecting McCarthy to remain until the end of a disastrous campaign.
However, Murray decided to act with just one more game of the season left than when he replaced Howard Wilkinson with the Yorkshireman in March 2003.
"As chairman, I take responsibility for what has proven to be an unsuccessful and heartbreaking season, despite the best intentions, efforts and expectations of everyone at the club," he said.
"I feel deeply sorry that the excitement, optimism and aspirations of all Sunderland fans looking forward to a return to the Premier League have been rewarded in this way, and I apologise for this.
"It is especially tough on supporters who have turned out in numbers week in week out, despite seeing so little to raise their spirits.
"It is hard to see such loyalty unrewarded and I am sorry that performances and results have not mirrored the tremendous level of support that the club has been given."Reuse content