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Di Canio Named New Sunderland Manager – What Are They Thinking?

SunderlandRelegation battles usually call for calm heads, but not at Sunderland, who shockingly fired Martin O’Neill on Saturday and replaced him with the combustible Paolo Di Canio on Sunday.

“Sunderland AFC have confirmed the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as Head Coach on a two-and-a-half year deal,” said a club statement.

Martin O”Neill was fired after Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United, a defeat that left Sunderland just a point above the relegation zone.

The prospect of losing out on the additional £20m in revenue that all Premier League clubs will receive next year was something that Sunderland’s hedge fund Owner Ellis Short was not willing to risk.

So he fires a top manager, albeit one whose side has really struggled this season, and replaced him with the 44-year-old Di Canio who has never managed in the top division in England.

“Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started,” said Sunderland’s American chairman Ellis Short.

“The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status,” Short added. “I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us.

“Our fans have shown tremendous patience and understanding this season. They have continued to back the team in huge numbers, both home and away, and that is something that continues to inspire all of us in our drive to give them the successful club they deserve. That remains our primary aim.”

There is already a backlash to the Di Canio hiring as and Sunderland vice chairman David Miliband MP immediately quit in protest.

Miliband quit not because of the firing of MON. No, he quit because Di Canio has said in the past that he was a fascist and admired Benito Mussolini.

“In the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down: said Miliband.

“I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future. It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games.”

I thought the firing of Brian McDermott at Reading was a panic move, but that one looks perfectly sane compared to this decision by Short.

If you had seven games to go and needed to win two or three in order to avoid relegation, would you want Paolo Di Canio or Martin O’Neill leading your side?