O’Neill makes Sunderland staff changes

John Robertson
John Robertson
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JOHN Robertson is unlikely to join Martin O’Neill at Sunderland, although the new Black Cats boss has not shut the door on his long-time assistant manager.

O’Neill yesterday confirmed several changes to his back-room team, with Steve Walford and Seamus McDonagh arriving alongside the new Sunderland boss at the Stadium of Light.

Walford, who has worked with O’Neill since his Wycombe days, will be Sunderland’s new first-team coach while McDonagh, who arrives from Hull City after a spell under O’Neill at Aston Villa, will be the club’s goalkeeping coach.

The duo replace two members of former manager Steve Bruce’s backroom team, in assistant manager Eric Black and goalkeeping coach Nigel Spink, who have both now left the club.

But, as things stand, there will be no role for O’Neill’s ex-Nottingham Forest team-mate Robertson, who has turned down the chance to join Sunderland for personal reasons.

O’Neill would still like Robertson to join him at the Stadium of Light, but will not look to appoint an alternative assistant.

“Steve will be the coach. I believe we’ll be fine with that at the moment,” said O’Neill.

“John can’t come up at the moment, so I’m happy to go along with the staff I have.

“It may be a possibility (Robertson joining Sunderland in the future) – I haven’t pushed it though.

“At the moment, he can’t make it for personal reasons and I obviously understand that.

“It’s a shame because I would have liked to have him here, because he would have given something to the spirit of the team.”

O’Neill is not considering widespread changes to his staff, with the likes of chief scout Pop Robson and reserve team coach Keith Bertschin set to remain in place.

But the new Black Cats boss added a word of thanks to the departed Black and Spink, who both followed Bruce from Wigan in the summer of 2009, after they took charge of Sunderland for last weekend’s defeat at Wolves.

“Eric took the team for me on Sunday along with Nigel Spink and I was very grateful for that,” he added.

“I wouldn’t have known the set pieces of Wolves, for instance, so they took that on, which I was thankful for.”