Sunderland hired former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill after firing Steve Bruce when the English Premier League soccer club went four matches without a win.
O’Neill will join on a three-year contract, Sunderland said today in a statement on its website. He is expected to be in the stands at Molineux for tomorrow’s game with Wolverhampton, while assistant manager Eric Black oversees the team.
Black has run the team since Bruce left on Nov. 30 after the team slipped to 16th in the league. The 50-year-old, who spent 2 1/2 years in charge, led the Black Cats to three home victories in 2011 and was subjected to chants of “Bruce out” during a 2-1 loss to Wigan at the Stadium of Light on Nov. 26.
“I hope I can help Sunderland to very successful period,” O’Neill said in the statement. “That’s what I’ve come for and that’s my driving ambition.”
O’Neill quit Villa in August 2010, five days before the start of the season. He had run Villa since 2006. He joined from Celtic, where his team won the Scottish Premier League three times and was runner up in the 2003 UEFA Cup. He’s also managed Leicester City, Norwich and Wycombe.
As a player, O’Neill won two European Cups under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest. He was captain of Northern Ireland in the 1982 World Cup.
Bruce left Sunderland with 11 points from 13 matches, two points above the three relegation positions. The Black Cats finished 13th in his first full season, then 10th last season.
Backed by funding from Chairman Ellis Short, who completed a takeover of Sunderland in 2009, Bruce made a number of high profile signings including Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Craig Gardner and Connor Wickham. Short is a former vice chairman of American real-estate investment firm Lone Star Funds.
The club has struggled to score goals in the absence of last season’s top-scorers Asamoah Gyan and Darren Bent. Gyan, signed for a club record 13 million pounds ($20.4 million) by Bruce, is on loan at Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, while Bent joined Aston Villa in January.