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Stoke City sack manager Michael O'Neill after poor start to Championship season

Stoke are 21st in the Championship after losing three of first five games; former Northern Ireland boss O'Neill was appointed in November 2019; assistant manager Dean Holden will take interim charge of the first team

Michael O'Neill has been sacked by Stoke
Image: Michael O'Neill has been sacked by Stoke

Stoke City have sacked manager Michael O'Neill after a poor start to the Championship season.

Stoke have won just one of their first five Championship games, leaving them one place outside of the bottom three after targeting promotion in pre-season.

They were beaten 1-0 at home to Sunderland on Saturday and, earlier this month, they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the first round by League One Morecambe.

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Watch highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Stoke and Sunderland.

Assistant manager Dean Holden will take interim charge of the first team.

Stoke's joint-chairman John Coates said in a statement: "Michael joined us in November 2019 when the club was in a difficult situation and the job he did in stabilising our position in the Championship should not be underestimated.

"Michael has worked tirelessly and with extreme professionalism, in particular in reshaping our squad and developing young players, but we feel the time is right to move in a different direction. I would like to thank him for his efforts and wish him every success for the future."

Following that latest defeat to Sunderland, O'Neill - who joined the club when they were bottom of the Championship after working as Northern Ireland manager - had called for "perspective" around Stoke's start to the campaign.

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"We're five games into the season, there's a lot of football to be played and I think it's about keeping it in perspective as well and that's what we'll try to do," he said. "This is quite a new squad of players and we've lost five or six players to injury who would push to be in our starting 11 so we're not really where we can be at this minute of time.

"I think we've got a really good team in our dressing room, but that's easy for me to say because we haven't shown that."

Stoke finished 14th in O'Neill's two full seasons in charge after he led them away from the relegation zone and up to 15th in 2019/20.

Analysis: Pressure to be promoted after overhaul cost O'Neill

Sky Sports' Paul Gilmour:

"Stoke had multiple issues when O'Neill took charge in November 2019, including inflated wages and, as a result, senior players lacking in motivation and refusing to move on because of their contract situations.

"O'Neill, with a degree in sports directorship and experience of running the entire football operation during his spell as Northern Ireland boss, had significant input into the rebuild.

"Over time he helped stabilise the club by helping to reduce the wage bill from £40m to £20m, he restructured the medical and sports science departments and brought in more young players.

"Many of them became assets to Stoke - Nathan Collins joined Burnley for £12m.

"The next step was to get Stoke back into the Premier League and there had been gradual improvement season-on-season from where they started.

"However, a poor run of results at the beginning of the current campaign led to fan pressure and ultimately the decision was taken by the club."

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