SUNDERLAND chairman Niall Quinn has thrown his support behind manager Ricky Sbragia and dismissed rumours he is planning to replace him in the near future.
Sbragia has come under pressure in recent weeks after the team dropped to 17th position in the league and speculation has mounted another manager might be brought in to ensure the Black Cats beat the drop.
But Quinn said there is no truth in such reports and praised the job Sbragia has done since taking over from Roy Keane in December.
“We are 100% behind Ricky,” Quinn said. “I said it when Roy Keane was around — I am like a team-mate, it’s a partnership between myself and Ricky. We are trying to help Ricky and he’s doing a superb job.
“You must remember that he had no players to sign in the transfer market — he took over on the eve of the window so he had no scouting done and he got a couple of loan players in.
“He hasn’t had that much of a grasp of being manager in terms of doing it his way and we’ve asked him to do a very difficult job.
“The great thing for me would be for us to stay up, sit down and have a review for a few days away from Sunderland and then plan for something really big next year.
“But there is absolutely no truth that we are looking at anybody else. It’s Ricky’s job, he’s our manager.”
Earlier Sbragia himself dismissed speculation linking Alan Curbishley with his job as Sunderland boss.
Reports last week suggested Sunderland were planning to bring in Curbishley on a short-term basis to help their fight for survival.
Sbragia is not worried about the rumours and insists he is already planning with Black Cats chairman Quinn for life next season in the Premier League.
“It (the speculation) is not a distraction,’’ Sbragia said. “It is media speculation so I can’t do an awful lot about that.
“I speak to Niall daily and we are looking ahead and we are planning ahead.
“I think he’s dismissed it. I think it is just speculation and the biggest thing in my mind is just the Hull game.
“We are looking ahead at the fact that we are going to be in the Premiership (next season).
“We have looked ahead regarding the players in general and the scouting side and staffing side.
“All we have to do now is produce it on the field and get the points that are required and get them as soon as possible.
Sunderland get their next chance to pick up points against Hull tomorrow and Sbragia conceded it is a must-win game.
The Wearsiders face a massive game at home to fellow strugglers Hull before travelling to West Brom seven days later, two games that will have a major bearing on whether or not they will be playing Premier League or Championship football next season.
“It’s a must-win situation,” Sbragia admitted. “We know how big this game is for us. Hull will make it difficult for us bit I feel we have enough to get something from it.
“We were encouraged by last week’s performance. We did a lot of good things — we worked hard and showed better commitment.
“We now have to do it against Hull, it can’t be just a one-off. We hope to continue from where we left off last week, and come out with a result.’’
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