Di Canio sacked by Sunderland; Di Matteo leads race to take over
Controversial Italian told his squad to get him fired if they were unhappy... and they duly did
THE Premier League's flirtation with fascism appears to be over. Paolo di Canio was sacked as Sunderland manager after just six months in the job, with his team bottom of the table and just one point from the first five games of the season.
The manner of his dismissal appears as bizarre as his reign at the Stadium of Light. The Daily Mail reports that the end came after a bust-up with several players following the 3-0 defeat to West Brom on Saturday.
The paper says he "told his disgruntled players to tell the club's hierarchy to sack him if they no longer wanted him in charge," and they duly obliged, announcing the news of his departure on Sunday night.
One might have thought Di Canio had learned his lesson last week, when he engaged in a similar act of brinkmanship with referee Martin Atkinson during the game against Arsenal. On that occasion the Italian invited Atkinson to show him a red card after losing his temper with the officials, and he was promptly banished to the stands. Afterwards Di Canio said he regretted his actions, but the same trick may now have cost him his job.
According to Bleacher Report Di Canio's efforts to confront angry Sunderland fans after the West Brom game did not help matters. "The incident almost became a tragic farce. A manager doomed for the axe was on the pitch desperately trying to win over fans. Those fans, meanwhile, simply rained down their scorn on him, effectively bringing his tenure to a close," it says.
However, Louise Taylor of The Guardian says Sunderland's summer recruitment strategy left Di Canio in a hole. The club signed 14 new players over the summer, and only five had any Premier League experience. "Even the most experienced managers would surely have struggled to hit the ground running at the Stadium of Light this season," she argues.
The Times calls Di Canio's exit "the end of an error" for Sunderland. "You did not have to be Nostradamus last March to fear the worst for the unlikely marriage between an eccentric, autocratic, confrontational, attention-seeking Italian with right-wing tendencies and a stable working-class club in the North East of England," writes Oliver Kay.
So who will replace Di Canio?
Roberto Di Matteo: The former Chelsea boss is the bookmakers' favourite and, according to The Times, is the "desired candidate of several members of the Sunderland squad". The paper adds that he would "bring a degree of continuity for the Italian regime".
Gus Poyet: Another former Chelsea star, Poyet "left Brighton in acrimonious circumstances but won many admirers on the south coast for a style of play which led the Seagulls to promotion out of League One and to the Championship play-offs," says the Mail.
Neil Lennon: The Celtic boss has expressed a wish to manage in the Premier League says the Mail, but it wonders if the lure of Sunderland will be enough to tempt him away from Parkhead.
Stuart Pearce: The Times notes that the former England Under-21 boss has a penchant for publicly criticising his players, just like Di Canio. He also played for Newcastle and "Sunderland fans may find it hard to look beyond his Tyneside links."
Steve McLaren: The former England manager, who has failed to hold down a job in English football for many years and is currently a coach aty QPR "ranks as an outsider" according to The Guardian. ·