Welcome: Johnson appointed Head Coach

Sunderland AFC is delighted to welcome Lee Johnson as the club’s new Head Coach.

The former Bristol City manager has signed an initial two-and-a-half-year deal at the Stadium of Light and will take charge of his first game today when the Lads host Wigan Athletic in Sky Bet League One.

Johnson’s appointment marks a swift return to management for the 39-year-old, who was the longest serving manager in the EFL Championship when his time at Ashton Gate came to an end in July.

Speaking upon his arrival, Johnson said: “Speaking to Kristjaan, Jim and the owners, I was absolutely blown away by their plans and dreams for the club. I can see so much potential and I see it everywhere. I see it in the league and how we can step up, I see it in the facilities, I see it in the community and the passion the people of Sunderland have, and I also see it in the academy. The feeling I got from the ownership group [made this the right club for me]. There was other interest, but that doesn’t matter now and I want to be successful and to see a brave new Sunderland. I want to be bold in my own decisions, I want to be bold for the team in the way that we play and the philosophy that we play to, but I also want the club to make bold decisions and that is what I’ve truly bought into. We have to connect the team and the fan base because that can be really powerful at a club like this.”

Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman added: “The role of our Head Coach is going to be critical in delivering the strategy we have collectively established. This aligned approach has enabled us to create a profile for the position and following a rigorous process, I felt Lee was the outstanding candidate. I believe he understands the complexities of the project and I’m looking forward to supporting him in his role to bring sustained success to the football club.”

After taking charge of Bristol City in February 2016, he steered the Robins clear of relegation in successive seasons whilst implementing a fresh approach and ethos across the club.

That approach started to yield results during the 2017-18 campaign and led to across-the-board progression, as Johnson, who was named Championship Manager of the Month in September, led the club to an 11th-placed finish.

In the same season, a memorable EFL Cup run saw numerous Premier League outfits swept aside, including Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, before a narrow semi-final defeat to Manchester City led to Pep Guardiola hailing Johnson’s style of play.

The Robins’ evolution continued during 2018-19 and they narrowly missed out on a Play-Off place on the final day of the campaign, finishing eighth to secure their best league finish in over a decade. 

As a player, Johnson made over 400 combined appearances for Yeovil Town and Bristol City, winning the National League and League Two titles with the former before earning a third promotion with the Robins in 2007.

He also represented Brentford, Hearts, Derby County, Chesterfield and Kilmarnock as a player, winning the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup during his time north of the border.

Johnson became the youngest manager in the EFL when he was appointed Oldham Athletic boss aged 31, with a two-year spell at Boundary Park ending when he took charge of Barnsley in February 2015.

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