Sbragia in dogfight for Black Cat future

SUNDERLAND boss Ricky Sbragia knows he could be fighting for his job as the season draws to a close.

The Scot insists he has been under no illusions since he succeeded Roy Keane in December as to the nature of the task ahead of him, but remains relaxed about it.

However, he is well aware of the penalty for failure with the Black Cats, having slipped to within three points of the Barclays Premier League drop zone as a result of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at West Ham.

Sbragia said: “I don’t think you are ever secure as a manager, no matter what support you have got.

“I knew when I took the job on what was expected — I have to keep the club up, it’s as simple as that.

“If I don’t achieve that, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

“But I don’t feel the pressure because I try not to read the papers or let the media spotlight get to me. I know what I have to do and I’m focused on that.

“I don’t think any manager in my position, in charge of a club down there at the wrong end of the table, is safe. That’s just part of football.”

Chairman Niall Quinn appointed Sbragia as permanent boss after a short but successful spell as caretaker in the immediate aftermath of Keane’s departure.

But after a run of two victories and a draw in his first four games, Sunderland have found the going tougher since and have won just one of their last eight league matches.

That has left them in a perilous position heading into Saturday’s difficult home clash with leaders Manchester United, who demonstrated their admirable depth of their squad with a 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Sunday despite the absence of several key men.

Alex Ferguson, for whom Sbragia worked during his time on the staff at Old Trafford, is likely to have greater options at his disposal this weekend, and even with the after-effects of last night’s Champions League quarter-final against Porto to deal with, the Black Cats know they will be up against it.

However, the manager will hope the kind of vulnerability United have shown in recent weeks against Fulham and Liverpool could give the Black Cats a chance.

Sbragia said: “Against Manchester United, anything can happen.

“We have to hope that they maybe have an off day and we have to be more adventurous.

“Manchester United have got Champions League games either side of this weekend and hopefully that might make a little bit of a difference.”


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