See Ya Later, Sbragia

News came out last night, but it appears to have been confirmed this morning that Ricky Sbragia has left Sunderland.

Ricky has held numerous positions at the club, from reserve team manager, coach, manager and most recently - chief scout.

It's not yet known whether Ricky jumped or has been pushed, but all reports coming from the situation suggest the split has been amicable.

Many have criticised Sbragia without really knowing the ins and outs of his job, however I'll hold him in fairly high regard here.

After a very productive spell as manager of the reserve team, Ricky was headhunted to do the same job at Manchester United. After a few years in the North West, the Scotsman returned to Sunderland under Roy Keane's guidance as a coach.

Ricky then came in to steady a very uneasy ship when Roy Keane had a hissy-fit and left with the club struggling in the lower reaches of the Premier League.

His management style came under a lot of scrutiny, me included at the time no doubt, but when you look back, he was exactly what we needed. Having incurred the wrath of Keano on several occasions, some players just needed a hug. Perhaps Ricky was overly soft at times. Rumor has it some of the more vocal members of the squad, the likes of Kenwyne Jones & Djibril Cisse told Ricky EXACTLY what they thought of him, however he managed ot mould the team into a cohesive unit.

Yeah, the football was dull as dishwater, the play highly uninspiring with two holding midfielders out of five, with little threat going forward, but we got the necessary results which ensured we avoided relegation by the skin of our teeth.

A pivotal moment in our recent history, and it's highly likely we'd have been relegated under Keane's leadership. It was following this miraculous escape from relegation which prompted a return to the North East for Steve Bruce, and perhaps more importantly, fresh cash and investment from new owner Ellis Short.

Niall immediately showed thanks to Sbragia, appointing him to the role of Chief Scout, and promised a 'job for life' if he wanted it.

We've come along way from those days. Where Grant Leadbitter & Carlos Edwards once played we now have top players like Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon. However, it's very possible that none of this would ever happened had Ricky Sbragia not stepped in when he did.

Ricky, good luck in all your future endeavors.

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