Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn paid tribute to departing boss Ricky Sbragia for handing the club a precious lifeline.
Quinn watched his club survive in the Barclays Premier League despite losing 3-2 at home to Chelsea as Hull, Newcastle and Middlesbrough were all defeated to send the Magpies and Boro down with West Brom. Sbragia immediately announced his decision to stand down as manager to spark the search for a high-profile replacement.
Quinn, who promised Sbragia will have a job at the club for life, said: "I would just like to put on record how big a job he did and how grateful we are that he stood up like a man and took the challenge on."
He added: "There had been a walk-out here, we were in the bottom three and were playing Manchester United away next.
"The place was at a very low ebb - had we lost the following week, we were going bottom of the league, swapping places with West Brom, and that will tell you what Ricky Sbragia walked into.
"He did it for me and he got us to where we needed to be. He has given this club a lifeline and now it's an opportunity we have to grab with both hands and kick on.
"I have some serious work to be doing - player recruitment, the next steps - but, with the energy Ricky has created for this club, I am ready to pour it all in, and I will have him right beside me, a great Sunderland man bringing this club forward."
Quinn will take his time in making an appointment he believes will be key to the club's chances of making it to the next step - they survived by only two points - and a list of high-profile candidates is already emerging.
Martin Jol, Frank Rijkaard, Slaven Bilic, Steve Bruce and Steve McClaren are among those to have been linked with the job in recent weeks.
However, Guus Hiddink ruled himself out of the race after being asked the question in jest as his stay at Stamford Bridge draws to a close.
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