Sunderland close to appointing Lee Johnson as head coach

Sunderland close to appointing Lee Johnson as head coach

Sunderland have appointed Lee Johnson as their head coach on contract until summer 2023. The 39-year-old former Bristol City manager fills the gap left by Phil Parkinson’s sacking and becomes part of a revamped hierarchy featuring the newly installed sporting director Kristjaan Speakman.

Johnson, who will take charge of his first game on Saturday when Sunderland host Wigan Athletic in League One, said: “I was absolutely blown away by their plans and dreams for the club. I can see so much potential and I see it everywhere. I see it in the league and how we can step up, I see it in the facilities, I see it in the community and the passion the people of Sunderland have, and I also see it in the academy.

“The feeling I got from the ownership group [made this the right club for me]. There was other interest, but that doesn’t matter now and I want to be successful and to see a brave new Sunderland. I want to be bold in my own decisions, I want to be bold for the team in the way that we play and the philosophy that we play to, but I also want the club to make bold decisions and that is what I’ve truly bought into. We have to connect the team and the fan base because that can be really powerful at a club like this.”

Whereas Speakman on Friday exchanged his role as Birmingham City’s academy head for one at the Stadium of Light, Johnson has been out of work since being sacked by Championship Bristol City in July after four years. He has League One experience from roles in charge of Oldham and Barnsley and will be charged with the task of leading Sunderland out of the third tier this season.

The former Sunderland manager Gus Poyet was also spoken to as the board interviewed assorted candidates on a shortlist also including Sol Campbell, Danny Crowley and Paul Cook.

Speakman, 41, said he was “excited” about the prospect of helping “restore Sunderland to their rightful place in the Premier League”. He joins with the team seventh in League One, five points off an automatic promotion place and with the club inching closer to being taken over by Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Juan Sartori.