Paolo Di Canio sacked: Sunderland dismiss controversial Italian just five games into the season

Defeat at West Bromwich and confrontation with fans was final straw for chairman Ellis Short

Paolo Di Canio became the first Premier League manager to lose his job this season on Sunday night when Sunderland dramatically called time on the gamble of his controversial appointment.

With the Italian’s hastily rebuilt side bottom of the table with just one point from five games, the Sunderland chairman, Ellis Short, who had bankrolled his 14 signings in the summer, acted swiftly the day after a sobering 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.

Di Canio had reacted to the loss by bizarrely walking across the Hawthorns pitch and confronting the travelling Sunderland fans, some of whom responded angrily, many with bemusement.

A club statement last night said: “Sunderland AFC confirms that it has parted company with head coach Paolo Di Canio this evening.

“Kevin Ball will take charge of the squad ahead of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup game against Peterborough United and an announcement will be made in due course regarding a permanent successor. The club would like to place on record its thanks to Paolo and his staff and wishes them well for the future.”

Di Canio arrived at the Stadium of Light at the end of March when Short reacted to a supine performance in the 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United by dispensing with Martin O’Neill and, with relegation a possibility, bravely opting for the former Swindon manager. It proved a controversial appointment as critics cited reports of his alleged fascist sympathies.

Di Canio managed to inject some spirit into the side and helped by a  3-0 victory over local rivals Newcastle at St James’ Park kept them up. However, he was highly critical of the squad he inherited from O’Neill and spent the summer overhauling his playing staff.

He spoke of being given time for his new-look side to gel but in the Premier League that was never likely and heavy defeats at Crystal Palace and West Bromwich sealed his fate after just five games.