O'Leary Leaving? *Exclusive*
Rumours abound in the North East this morning about the future of Sunderland AFC. Niall Quinn was welcomed like a returning hero at the Stadium of Light when he was the guest of chairman Bob Murray at the Mackem's match vs Arsenal. Before the game, both Murray and Quinn confirmed that a bidding vehicle was in place for a takeover and that negotiations were close to being finalised. If successful, Quinn will assume the role of Chairman and Murray will leave the club after more than 20 years at the helm.
The bulk of the talk in the North East now, given that it appears the takeover is complete bar the shouting, is the possibility of a big name managerial appointment. Local press has been touting Martin O'Neill for the position, given his support for the club as a boy and his current lack of employment. However, it is believed that O'Neill will turn down the chance to manage Sunderland for the same reasons that he refused the Newcastle Utd job. He wishes to be closer to his wife and family and, if he were to return to football, the north east is thought to be too far removed from his family in the midlands.
A stronger candidate for the role in a newly structured Sunderland AFC is current Villa boss David O'Leary. Already under immense pressure at Villa, O'Leary ties to Quinn from their Arsenal days and his friendship with horsing magnate and Quinn's financier John Magnier, O'Leary is said to be keen to take on the opportunity to revive the fortunes of the Wearsiders. With the promise of significant funds to facilitate a clear-out and rebuilding programme, and the chance to work closer to his Harrogate home, O'Leary can leave the pressure of Aston Villa behind and take on a Sunderland club so downtrodden in recent years that there will be no burden of expectation on his shoulders.
If O'Leary does move to Sunderland, it is also expected that he will take Kevin Phillips back to the Stadium of Light with him; a move that is sure to prove popular with the Wearside faithful given the litany of misfiring strikers at the club since Phillips' departure.
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