With Sunderland slumping to yet another defeat at the hands of West Brom on the weekend, it leaves them bottom of the Premier League with only a point all season. The thoughts of many Black Cats fans will certainly be to sack manager Paolo Di Canio and on Sunday the 22nd Sunderland sacked Di Canio after just 13 games in charge.
When Sunderland announced the appointment of the Paolo Di Canio as first team manager in March, opinions were divided among fans at the Stadium of Light, as well as the media and other fans across the nation. It was a massive gamble by the Sunderland board to appoint a manager who had never managed in the Premier League before. With the team already on the decline under Martin O’Neill, they were getting closer and closer to the drop zone and needed somebody to come in and rescue them from relegation. While the appointment of Di Canio would definitely bring a new lease of life to Wearside, it was unclear whether it would make any beneficial impact on the pitch.
We can certainly say that he kept Sunderland up, however looking closer at how he did so may dim the light slightly on his shining impact. With the team only picking up eight points from their final seven games, if it weren’t for the downfall of other teams then the Black Cats were likely to have gone down themselves. QPR and Reading had all but mathematically relegated by then and Fulham – who were 10th when Di Canio took over – and Wigan – picking up six points in eight games, deservedly went down. But if these teams had finished with a better run of form then Di Canio’s tenure at the Stadium of Light was likely to have ended there and then.
After avoiding the bottom three, the Italian’s real test would come this season. The summer break gave him the chance to put together a squad that he deemed fit for the Premier League and prepare for the tough challenge ahead. He had managed to create a successful team at Swindon which went on to be crowned Champions of League Two, so his capability in that department may have been trusted. However the standard of a League Two team is incomparable to that of a Premier League side, and as of yet Di Canio’s squad has yet to show the promise that was talked about prior to the campaign. Last weekend’s loss at the Hawthorns adds to the tally of four defeats in five games – including 3-1 to the bookies’ favourite to go down Crystal Palace – leaving them in 24th place and the future for Sunderland looking bleak.
Obviously, expecting fireworks from the word ‘go’ and a comfortable place in the top six by Christmas would be asking way too much, especially with the amount of changes that were made over the summer, but, as proved by many other teams before, QPR for example, a mass intake of players in one window is not always the way to go. It can upset the morale of the dressing room and obviously the language barrier will always be an issue – as Di Canio has already stated this season. The current situation at Sunderland is becoming strangely similar to that of QPR during the Mark Hughes tenure, and with everybody seeing how that one ended, the frustration for Sunderland fans will be that the men upstairs don’t seem to be doing much about it.
Last weekend was seen as a must win game for the club. After the whopping 3-0 defeat away against the Baggies, the travelling supporters were seen voicing their opinions directly to the manager as the former West Ham manager made his way over to the away section of the ground, signalling the fans to ‘chin up’. With Sunderland hosting Liverpool and Manchester United before travelling to face Swansea in their next three games, nobody, possibly even the team themselves, expects them to pick up any points and with the Tyne and Wear derby coming after that, it could signal the end for Di Canio. Obviously, the big derby will provide the ideal environment for his eccentricity to show, but as we’ve seen before his passion can often land him with a suspension.
The Sunderland hierarchy did not give him until the Newcastle derby to turn things around. In my opinion though, it is probably time for the club to concede that hiring the controversial manager in the first place was a massive risk that just hasn’t worked out for them – since the Italian’s appointment the Wearsiders have lost half of their games. I am indeed a fan of giving managers a chance to see how things go, however in this instance that isn’t the case. The Di Canio roller coaster has ended and they will be looking for an immediate replacement to revive their season.