SUNDERLAND, England (AP) - Martin O'Neill has been hired as the new manager of Sunderland, returning to the English Premier League nearly 16 months after quitting Aston Villa.
The 59-year-old Northern Irishman has signed a three-year contract and takes over from Steve Bruce, who was fired on Wednesday with the team in 16th place in the Premier League - two points above the relegation zone.
A boyhood follower of Sunderland, O'Neill will be a popular appointment having built a strong managerial reputation following successful stints at Leicester, Celtic and Villa, which he led to three straight sixth-place finishes before resigning in August 2010.
Sunderland has won just two of its 13 league games this season.
O'Neill will take charge on Monday.