Paolo Di Canio was fired by Sunderland for 'systematic destruction' of his players

After team complained of damaged self-esteem, club felt compelled to terminate ‘irrational’ reign of fear

Paolo Di Canio’s 175-day reign of fear at Sunderland was ended because of the “systematic destruction of the players’ self-esteem and self-worth” The Independent can reveal.

Di Canio clashed with his players in the dressing room at The Hawthorns after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion. There then followed a heated row between the manager and his squad on Sunday at Sunderland’s training ground, the Academy of Light, which led to his departure.

Di Canio’s relationship with the first-team players at Sunderland had deteriorated to such an extent that a source inside the club said: “It got to a point where they could not take any more. It became untenable.

“He was irrational at the end in his personal attacks on the players. There is relief more than anything that he has gone.”

Di Canio clashed with both Emanuele Giaccherini, the club’s marquee signing during the summer transfer window, and the deposed captain Lee Cattermole following the defeat at West Bromwich that proved the catalyst for change.

There followed further rebellion and another row between Di Canio and his players on Sunday that led to a delegation meeting Margaret Byrne, the club’s chief executive, to air their concern over the confrontational style of management.

Ellis Short, the Sunderland owner, then sacked his second manager in six months via a telephone call. Di Canio cleared out his desk on Sunday night but the position of Roberto De Fanti, whose office is across the hall from the manager’s at the Academy of Light, is said to be safe.

Kevin Ball, a former Sunderland captain and development coach at the club, has been put in charge for tonight’s Capital One Cup tie with Peterborough and Sunday’s crucial Premier League game against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light.

In that time, the Sunderland board will draw up a shortlist of candidates to try to rescue them from a disastrous start to the season in which they have picked up just one point from their opening five games. After the visit of Liverpool on Sunday, they face Manchester United at home and Swansea City away before hosting local rivals Newcastle United. That daunting fixture list will await a new manager, and there will be an expectation that Sunderland turn to someone with Premier League experience after the volatility of a rookie who had never coached top-flight players.

Di Canio was a hugely controversial appointment in March, when he succeeded the sacked Martin O’Neill, but he helped guide the club to safety. However, the confrontational style of the Italian led to repeated clashes with players, with the Professional Footballers’ Association stepping in after he dished out a series of fines.

Di Canio said Phil Bardsley would never play for the club again after the defender was photographed in a casino surrounded by £50 notes and he was banished from the club after a tweet following a defeat against Fulham.

Di Canio also stripped Cattermole of the club captaincy following a row and there was a warning from the England winger Adam Johnson last week about the constant public criticism from Di Canio when he said it “could kill players’ confidence”.

Ball, who has acted as caretaker at Sunderland before, took training on Monday and said: “The priority was just to meet the players, have a training session. Because of the events of the last day there’s not a great deal of stuff you could have put into their minds ready for [tonight]. Before training it was never mentioned because their heads would have been spinning. I’ve been a coach for 10 years so it is a natural progression to be able to take charge of a team. I am quite comfortable with it.”

Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch