Sunderland: Paolo Di Canio to offer starkest contrast to Martin O'Neill's style

Italian as emotional and impetuous as predecessor was thoughtful and methodical

The breakdown of a relationship – for that is what it was – between Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager, and Ellis Short, the Sunderland owner, centred on one key element. O'Neill did not think the players he had inherited 16 months earlier were good enough to meet the expectations of the American. The squad, he said, "lacked true, real quality". Short thought it did not.

In such a situation one man loses. On Saturday night, in conversation over the telephone with Short, following a miserable defeat at the Stadium of Light, albeit against Manchester United, the champions-in-waiting, O'Neill found out a football certainty: you cannot take on a chairman with bad results. O'Neill has supported Sunderland for 49 years of his life; he had managed them for less than two. By the time the 9pm call was ended, so was his time in charge.

Key statistics did for him.

Sunderland had won just four games at home this season. They currently sit bottom of the Premier League form table. They have picked up only three draws from their last eight Premier League games. They could not beat at home a Norwich side who played the majority of the match with 10 players following the dismissal of their goalkeeper.

Short's total investment in Sunderland is reckoned to be more than £100m. Relegation this summer would be disastrous, with a new television deal next season expected to add a further £30m to the turnover of any club which plays in England's top division.

By the time Short phoned O'Neill on Saturday night, Sunderland were one point off a relegation place. Those close to the owner felt he could not risk relegation as he waited for the spark O'Neill provided last season to rekindle. O'Neill repeatedly called for time. This was his first full season at Sunderland, having taken over a team in the bottom three at the beginning of December 2011. He spent £30m on Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson, Danny Graham and Alfred N'Diaye. Only Fletcher has flourished. On Saturday night, Short felt that without a change he risked losing Premier League status and after trying Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia, Steve Bruce and O'Neill, he now brings in Paolo Di Canio with a simple enough brief: he has to get more out of the players.

The contrast between the appointments of O'Neill – 27 years of managerial experience, almost 900 games – and Di Canio – one club, fewer than 100 games – is stark. O'Neill is thoughtful and methodical, Di Canio emotional and impetuous.

"I believe I am at a stage now where I am a Premier League or Championship manager," the Italian wrote after leaving Swindon Town in February. "The right place for me is the place that has the ambition and the staff who want to bring in a winning mentality. The club needs to have set rules, which for me are discipline, desire, passion, work ethic and a determination to get the right results to make everybody happy, namely the board, the fans and the club's players and staff."

That is more what the boardroom at Sunderland wanted to hear, despite its lofty ambition. Such aspiration is a big enough ask for a conservative manager.

Di Canio's Swindon reign was littered with colour and controversy. The club lost the sponsorship of the GMB Union on announcement of his appointment because of his association with fascist politics. He signed 15 players in that summer of 2011. There was a clash with one of them, Leon Clarke, in the tunnel after a game that was caught on camera. Clarke never played for Swindon again. Di Canio substituted his goalkeeper Wes Foderingham after 21 minutes during a defeat at Preston; Foderingham kicked a water bottle in a tantrum as he left the field. Di Canio demanded an apology, which he got. He took Swindon to the League Two championship and a Wembley cup final, which they lost.

On 6 October last year, Swindon had a transfer embargo placed upon them for breaking the limit on transfer fees and wages. It was lifted on 6 November but the club's new chairman, Sir William Patey, told Di Canio there would be no money for further spending. The 44-year-old manager responded by offering to pay £30,000 from his own pocket to keep Danny Hollands and Chris Martin, who had been at the club on loan. Under the threat of administration Swindon changed ownership. Matt Ritchie was sold for £500,000 to Bournemouth, against the wishes of Di Canio, who resigned. In the index of his autobiography come the following: argument with Atkinson, argument with Burns, argument with Capello, argument with Ferguson, argument with Trapattoni and argument with Wilson.

His second game in charge will be a Tyne-Wear derby at St James' Park, with both clubs fighting relegation. In the corresponding fixture last season, on 4 March 2012, the two sides were fined a total of £60,000 for a number of incidents, including both benches clashing.

Short has lit the blue touchpaper with his move for Di Canio. On what, no one is quite sure.

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

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

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map