England, Dec 3: Martin O'Neill was hired as the new manager of Sunderland on Saturday, returning to the English Premier League nearly 16 months after quitting Aston Villa.
The 59-year-old Northern Irishman signed a three-year contract as a replacement for Steve Bruce, who was fired on Wednesday with the northeast team in 16th place in the Premier League—two points above the relegation zone.
A boyhood follower of Sunderland, O'Neill will be a popular appointment having built a strong managerial reputation following successful stints at Leicester, Celtic and Villa, which he led to three straight sixth-place finishes before resigning in August 2010.
“It's a very nice feeling to be back in football and to be the manager of Sunderland. It's a big moment for me,” O'Neill said.
“I'd heard about what a good club it was but coming here, seeing the stadium and training ground, I've been bowled over. It's fantastic.”
Sunderland, the seventh best-supported club in England, has won just two of its 13 league games this season after Bruce overhauled his playing staff this summer with signings that included defenders Wes Brown and John O'Shea.
With Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan stunning Sunderland by leaving on loan to United Arab Emirates side Al Ain in September, after the closing of the transfer window, a shortage of goals has been Sunderland's problem.
“I hope I can help Sunderland to a very successful period. That's what I've come for and that's my driving ambition,” O'Neill said.
With O'Neill not taking the helm until Monday, assistant manager Eric Black will be in charge of first-team affairs for Sunderland's match at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.