Sunderland’s recent managerial history is a series of poor decisions and short term fixes. The usual Sunderland managerial cycle goes as follows: manager is sacked when they’re bottom of the table at Christmas, new man comes in, barely keeps them up and gets sacked the following Christmas. Of course David Moyes broke this cycle as the Sunderland board actually decided to stay with him. This loyalty of course backfired massively as the Black Cats were finally relegated. That’s for another day but for now lets journey back to the heady days of 2013 when a certain Paulo Di Canio entered the fray.
Di Canio was certainly a left field choice to fill the Sunderland post. His only previous managerial experience had been at Swindon Town, where he had achieved promotion to League One, so there was a semblance of promising young manager there. Di Canio’s appointment was a highly controversial one due to his fascist views, although he’s not a racist. Definitely not a racist. This caused then Sunderland vice-chairman, Labour MP David Miliband to resign from the club. In truth this was probably so he could just move away to New York quicker and get away from his brother Ed, but that debate is for another time.
We know that Di Canio was a fierce character on the pitch and that translated to his antics in the technical area. Given he was appointed Sunderland manager on the 31st of March his task was simple: secure Premier League survival. The first match was a tough one as Sunderland went away to Chelsea but to only lose 2-1 was an improvement, baring in mind Sunderland had picked up 3 points from their last 8 games. Next up was the big one however. Newcastle United at St James’ Park in one of the most competitive derbies in England. No pressure then.
The match was hotly contested with bookings all over the shop, but it was Sunderland’s day. They ran out comfortable 3-0 winners as Di Canio went mental on the side lines, including the Italian celebration of his side’s goals with that knee slide. Suddenly Di Canio was a cult hero with Sunderland fans and he followed this win up with another 3 points at home to Everton. Little did Di Canio know this would be his last league win as Sunderland manager. Despite the season tailing off badly from there, including a 6-1 thrashing by Aston Villa, survival was secured and Di Canio kept his job. Happy days.
Di Canio’s transfer dealings that summer were bizarre as experience players were sold on and terrible signings were made. Jozy Altidore in particular was horrendous scoring one league goal in his two year stint at the club. From Sunderland’s first five games that season the North East side collected just a single point. Di Canio would absolutely lay into the players during post-match team talks. The criticism was so harsh that the Italian instantly lost the dressing room and with senior players complaining to the chairman Di Canio was sacked on the 22nd of September, after just 12 Premier League games. He finished with a record of 2 wins, 3 draws and seven losses.
So despite the initial bright start, it all went pear-shaped for Paulo pretty quickly. His appointment, given his views, was never going to go down too well with a traditional working class town like Sunderland and the results following that win over Everton were shocking. Sunderland really only stayed up in 2012/13 due to the ineptitude of the teams around them. It seemed pretty apparent that had Sunderland stuck with him they were in big trouble in 2013/14 given the abysmal results and falling out with players.
Since then Di Canio hasn’t had another management job, and it seems that given his views clubs just do not want the PR nightmare of hiring him. Well that and the fact he’s an awful manager at the highest level.