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Punters seem to betting heavily on the Croatian succeeding Roy Keane as manager at the Stadium of Light.

Slaven Bilic has been installed as a bookmakers' favorite to succeed Roy Keane as Sunderland manager, even though it was widely understood that the Croatia national team coach was not amongst the leading candidates for the position.

The odds on Bilic replacing Keane fell from 12-1 to 6-4 at British bookmakers William Hill on Thursday, and whilst that is no guarantee of truth to the rumor, it might well give a strong indication of what the future on Wearside holds.

"You have to think that there is some substance to the gamble as they are still backing Slaven," a William Hill spokesman told The Times today.

However, Sunderland themselves reacted with bemusement to the news, as they are believed to be looking elsewhere, although the Croatian is highly regarded by Niall Quinn and his fellow Sunderland directors.

Quinn himself will not be hurried into making a crucial decision for the future of the club, and, with that in mind, has handed control of first-team affairs to caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia until at least after the end of the busy Christmas period.

Sbragia would seem to be a popular choice amongst the Black Cats' players, many of whom were rumored to dislike Keane intensely, with striker Kenwyne Jones giving the Scotsman his backing yesterday.

"He has our respect and we have his," said Jones. "He is basically continuing the work he has been doing behind the scenes and just trying to take the club and the team forward. The only thing you could do was be happy for him if he was made permanent manager."

--Zack Wilson, Goal.com

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