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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 15:24 GMT
Keane's Sunderland success story

By Chris Bevan

Sunderland manager Roy Keane
He has done everything in the game and won everything there is to be won - sometimes you are overwhelmed knowing he is your manager.

Stern John on Roy Keane

It is just six months since Roy Keane took charge at Sunderland but the feel-good factor is already back at the Stadium of Light.

When the former Manchester United midfielder was appointed on 28 August, the Wearsiders had lost their first four league games of the season and were bottom of the Championship.

The club as a whole was still suffering from a monstrous hangover following their disastrous relegation from the top flight - with the Premiership's lowest points tally - the previous campaign.

New chairman Niall Quinn had spent the summer rebuilding behind the scenes but on the pitch things seemed to be just as desperate as before.

Recently retired as a player - and totally unproven as a manager - Keane seemed a surprising choice as a saviour given his rocky relationship with his former Republic of Ireland team-mate.

That choice now looks inspired.

606 VIEW

After a steady improvement before Christmas, a run of eight wins from their last 10 games, including Saturday's 2-1 win at high-flying West Brom, means Sunderland are only four points off the top of the table.

Keane has taken last season's losers - 29 of their 38 Premiership games ended in defeat - and transformed them into a durable outfit, with no shortage of flair.

He has lost only seven Championship games as boss, is unbeaten in the league in 2007 and his activity in the transfer window also bears up to scrutiny.

Since taking charge Keane has underlined how important he thinks a "good dressing room" is, something he no doubt learned under Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.

And one of the four players he brought in during the January transfer window, Trinidad and Tobago striker Stern John, feels he knows the kind of attitude that Keane wants as the promotion race heats up.

"It is a key time for a lot of teams who are knocking on the door to the Premiership," John told BBC Sport.

Stern John celebrates his goal for Sunderland against West Brom
Stern John celebrates his goal for Sunderland against West Brom

"You want people in the dressing room who are going to be calm. The manager brought in the players he did because he wants that experience."

John, 30, turned down a move back to Birmingham City to join the Black Cats and says he feels honoured to play under Keane.

He added: "He took a chance on me and I want to repay him.

There are lots of teams in the promotion race and we are all close - but close is not a word I like

Roy Keane

"It is brilliant having him as the gaffer because he has done everything in the game and won everything there is to be won. Sometimes you are overwhelmed knowing he is your manager.

"I played against him a few times and he is so competitive. Even now, when he joins in with training he always wants to win.

"He has a great attitude and that is what made him the player he was - and the manager he is."

Sunderland have now played the division's top three sides - Derby, Birmingham and the Baggies - in successive games and the win at The Hawthorns means they have come away with a seven-point haul.

But, typically, Keane is not getting carried away with his side's good form.

"I believe we should have had nine from three difficult games but we have got seven and I am happy with that," Keane said.

"Birmingham and Derby are in pole position but we will keep plugging away and see what happens. There are lots of teams in the promotion race and we are all close - but close is not a word I like."

The Sunderland fans who have witnessed Roy's revolution first-hand know what they think - and sang 'we are going up' at The Hawthorns on Saturday to prove it.

With Keane in charge you can understand their optimism.



SEE ALSO
West Brom 1-2 Sunderland
03 Mar 07 |  Championship
Keane earns Championship honour
01 Mar 07 |  Sunderland
The Championship tussle
28 Feb 07 |  Championship
Claridge's Championship view
28 Feb 07 |  Championship
Inside Roy's revolution
12 Oct 06 |  Sunderland
Keane aiming for early promotion
09 Sep 06 |  Sunderland
The odd couple
27 Aug 06 |  Sunderland
Keane's massive challenge
23 Aug 06 |  Sunderland


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