Alex Neil breaks silence on shock Sunderland exit and why he moved to Stoke City

Alex Neil says the influence of the Stoke City ownership was key to his decision to leave Sunderland.
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Neil’s hugely successful but short-lived stay on Wearside came to an end over the weekend after he informed the Sunderland hierarchy that he wished to speak to the Coates’ family over the vacancy at the bet365 Stadium.

The head coach had signed up to improved terms on his initial 12-month rolling contract, but remained unhappy with his position. Sunderland made a late counter-offer on Friday morning but it’s understood that Stoke City have offered him a significant improvement.

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In his first remarks since leaving the Stadium of Light Neil has also suggested that he believes he will work within a more beneficial structure at Stoke. Neil was close to taking the job earlier in his career while in charge at Preston North End.

Sunderland boss Alex NeilSunderland boss Alex Neil
Sunderland boss Alex Neil

Tellingly, he has signed a three-year deal and been handed the title of ‘manager’. In his first interview with club media, Neil was asked why he picked Stoke City and said they would give him ‘everything he needs’ to succeed.

“I’m delighted to be here, it’s a great opportunity for me and for the club in terms of where we find ourselves,” Neil said.

"The last few years have been difficult for a variety of reasons and this hopefully is a new start and an opportunity for us.

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"The key factor was the ownership. They are widely renowned as being one of the best owners.

"I think they give you everything that you need. On and off the pitch that you require as a manager to succeed. That really appeals to me. I think every manager wants to be accountable for the decisions that you make and shape things going forward."

Asked in his first press conference with external media why he had quite Sunderland to join Stoke, Neil replied: “There are two facets to being a manager: what happens on and off the pitch.

"What happened on the pitch at Sunderland was superb. Players, staff, fans deserve credit. Other requirements are needed for me to do the job as much as I can and they are better suited here. It's not fair for me to go into more detail than that.”

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Neil believes the Championship is ‘wide open’ and says promotion over the next two seasons is his ambition.

“It’s a highly-talented squad, with a lot of good players but equally I don’t think we’ve lived up to what we would expect, so that’s something we want to address,” he said.

“I think anything is achievable, if I’m honest. The Championship is wide open just now, it’s been very, very competitive and I think it’s there for anybody who can put a run together.

“My aim is to be successful and win, promotion, it’s got to be hasn’t it. Is it this year, next year? I’m not quite sure, but we want to get out the league.”

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Stoke City are currently operating under some financial restrictions but have concluded some eye-catching deals this summer and Neil says he is still hoping to add to the squad before the transfer window closes.