Sunderland have appointed Lee Johnson as their new head coach on a two-and-a-half year deal, a day after naming Kristjaan Speakman their new sporting director.
The former Bristol City boss held face-to-face talks with the Sunderland board and emerged as their preferred choice to replace Phil Parkinson, who left the club last week. He will take charge against Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
Johnson, who has also previously been in charge of Oldham and Barnsley, has been out of management since being sacked by Bristol City in July after nearly four-and-a-half years in charge.
Speaking to the official Sunderland website, Johnson said: «Speaking to Kristjaan, Jim and the owners, 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.»
Johnson inherits a Sunderland side who are seventh in League One and will be tasked with mounting a promotion push back to the second tier for the first time since 2018.
He was the Championship’s longest-serving boss prior to his dismissal from Bristol City, and even earned plaudits from Pep Guardiola after leading the Robins to a Carabao Cup semi-finals meeting with Manchester City.
Sunderland sporting director, Kristjaan Speakman, who was unveiled himself only on Friday, expressed his delight with Johnson’s appointment.
«The role of our head coach is going to be critical in delivering the strategy we have collectively established,» Speakman told the Sunderland website.
«This aligned approach has enabled us to create a profile for the position and following a rigorous process, I felt Lee was the outstanding candidate.
«I believe he understands the complexities of the project and I’m looking forward to supporting him in his role to bring sustained success to the football club.»