• Premier League

Sunderland part ways with Martin O'Neill

ESPN staff
March 30, 2013

Sunderland have parted company with Martin O'Neill after a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday drew them closer to the relegation zone.

Sunderland have lost five of their last eight games and have failed to pick up a win since January, and lie 16th in the Premier League.

A statement on Sunderland's official website said: "Sunderland AFC has announced that it has parted company with manager Martin O'Neill this evening.

"The club would like to place on record its thanks to Martin and wishes him well for the future. An announcement will be made in the coming days regarding a successor."

Sunderland are currently just one point above the drop zone, with tricky visits to European champions Chelsea and North East rivals Newcastle United coming up in their next two games.

O'Neill, 61, took the reins at the Stadium of Light in December 2011 and guided the Wearsiders out of the bottom three and to a 13th-placed finish in the Premier League last season.

Steve McClaren, Paolo Di Canio and Roberto Di Matteo are amongst the favourites to become the next manager, as are Mark Hughes, Gus Poyet and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.

O'Neill, of course, was the man whose appointment Sunderland fans had craved for years, and his arrival was greeted with delight.

The Northern Irishman had never made any secret of his boyhood affection for the club and the chance to manage it fulfilled a long-held dream.

His start was just what owner and chairman Ellis Short was looking for as a run of seven victories in his first ten league games eased the club out of relegation trouble and sent spirits soaring.

The Black Cats ran out of steam toward the end of the campaign, but with their top-flight status secured and the promise of a summer rebuilding program, attention turned to the new campaign with genuine optimism.

That only increased when Short provided O'Neill with a total of £22 million with which to buy Scotland international striker Steven Fletcher and England winger Adam Johnson, and the American chairman put his hand in his pocket once again in January to add Danny Graham and Alfred N'Diaye to the squad.

However, only Fletcher, who was this week ruled out for the remainder of the season with ankle ligament damage, has hit the ground running with his 11 goals a major contribution to the 31 points Sunderland have claimed to date.

Johnson in particular has failed to recreate the form he showed in his early days at Middlesbrough and then in spells after his move to Manchester City, while Graham is yet to find the back of the net in seven appearances.

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