After Paolo Di Canio fiasco, what now for once proud Sunderland?


At 8.30am on 13 July, the colliery bands of Durham began their march towards the city's market place. The miners' banners went with them, signposts to the past, a visible display of pride in the region's history. From there followed a slow march towards the County Hotel on Old Elvet. The bands played, the march went on to the racecourse, and the banners were strapped to the surrounding fences.

Three months earlier, Dave Hopper, the general secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, had written to Sunderland Football Club to demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners' banner.At that point the penny should have dropped.

The request for that banner which so impressively adorned a wall on a stairway at the Stadium of Light came in protest against the alleged facist sympathies of the man the club had just appointed manager, Paolo Di Canio. But instead of a major rethink, Sunderland's power-brokers drove faster towards the precipice.

They had the political might of board member David Miliband, then MP for South Shields and one time Foreign Secretary, to alleviate the impending crisis. There was no U-turn amid the alienation and chaos that engulfed Wearside following Di Canio's arrival in March.

Sunderland, led by the billionaire Ellis Short, refused to listen. Then Miliband resigned because of Di Canio's alleged allegiance to fascism. There was even an offer of resignation from Di Canio himself as the most vicious storm anyone associated with the club could remember whipped around the Academy of Light. It was turned down.

Now Di Canio has gone the club must find a way to stop the whirr of the Stadium of Light revolving door that spits out managers and players with alarming regularity. It seems unlikely to happen soon.

Sunderland have an unproven director of football in Roberto De Fanti. He is eager to impress, but the first team have been weakened since he took over transfer business in the summer. Stéphane Sessègnon and Simon Mignolet, the club's two best players last season, were sold.

Emanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore were the most high-profile of the 14 players who arrived in the summer. Giaccherini carries around an English phrasebook. That offers hope, but this season will be nothing but a struggle from here on in. Rush into a decision and the consequences can be felt for years to come. Ask Wolves.

Di Canio could not build a relationship with his players. It is that simple. He destroyed bridges instead of building them. Gustavo Poyet's agent has held talks with Sunderland officials for his client to replace Di Canio. He remains the favourite for a club that wants a young tracksuited manager who will work with the players on the training ground.

Vicente, the Spanish international who worked with Poyet at Brighton, called him selfish and egocentric. It has to be hoped that lessons have been learned from the 175-day reign of Di Canio, but you can never be certain. Sunderland are doing due diligence on possible appointments. The result of that should be interesting.

The club needs to find itself as much as a new manager. There was a timely reminder from Kevin Ball, the caretaker manager who joined the club in 1990 as a player, of what a football club means to its community. Ball has been at the club for almost half his life. He said the first six weeks were hard to settle, but then he got what the club meant. His family have been brought up in the region. It is his home.

"Each player should be given a book which says 'this is Sunderland Football Club'. This is our club. These are our supporters. It's a club with hard-working supporters who just want you to understand what the club is about. Be prepared to understand what it's like for those people who come to watch you play." It feels like a strikingly pertinent point.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor