SUNDERLAND will begin the search for a new manager today after Ricky Sbragia resigned having kept the Black Cats in the Premier League.
He will be handed the job of finding "real men" for his successor to mould into a team after chairman Niall Quinn promised him "a job for life" at the Stadium of Light.
The Scot announced his resignation to the players minutes after the Wearsiders confirmed their place in next season’s Premier League, where they will be the North East’s sole representatives.
After six months in charge, Sbragia walked away telling Quinn he needed a "bigger name" in charge. He will continue to play an important role, however.
"Ricky has got a job for life at the club and we need someone in player recruitment," said Quinn. "He’s one of the best people around to do that for me.
"I’m sure every Sunderland fan will raise a toast for him. He has given this club a lifeline.
"We are a big club, a massive football club, and need somebody who can take the pressure. I will do everything I can to bring in a big name.
"We have a lot of talent in the dressing room but need the winning mentality. We need proper men here, we don’t need frilly players. Player recruitment is the key to everything. We are beginning to attract the names. It is a vital role and it’s great to have a Sunderland man like Ricky Sbragia in the wings."
Quinn sat alongside benefactor Ellis Short yesterday as Sunderland lost 3-2 to Chelsea but were kept in the division by results elsewhere. Now the pair will search for the big name to take the club to the fabled "next level" which was supposed to be their destination
after a summer of largesse. Names such as Martin Jol and Frank Rijkaard are expected to be part of the discussion once Short completes his takeover of the club. The Texan billionaire largely funded last summer’s transfer spending and is expected to provide even more 12 months on.
"We have to catch our breath," said Quinn. "I’ve got to go and see Ellis and talk to him.
"He has been superb and hopefully we can kick on from here. We have to dust ourselves down and get going again.
"We haven’t sat down to even think about a list of potential managers but we do need a big name here and we need to change the mentality of the club.
"I’ve not thought of who yet. I will think about it when it all settles down – but we’ll take our time."
Quinn confirmed Short – who personally announced his intentions to the Sunderland players in the dressing room at Portsmouth last week – is close to buying out the Drumaville Consortium.
"It’s not quite there yet, but it was all about football this week," said the former striker. "I didn’t want to throw confusion into the arena – I can’t begin to explain what the last five or six months have been like."
Sbragia was equally relieved having reluctantly taken the job in the first place.
He revealed: "The brief was to keep Sunderland in the Premier League and I only decided to leave on the Saturday.
"There was never any pressure and I do think what I’m doing is right.
"I’m not sad, I could have been selfish and kept the job. But the club needs somebody with fresh ideas.
"We started reasonably under me but I told Niall the club need a bigger name. If it wasn’t for Niall I wouldn’t have taken the job in the first place.
"I always thought we were good enough to stay in the Premier League and I’m pleased for the players and the staff.
"I feel there is now a foundation and it’s up to someone to take them on. I want to be by Niall’s side."