Sunderland take a gamble on survival with Paolo Di Canio

Black Cats act swiftly with appointment of Italian on two-and-a-half-year deal after Martin O'Neill's sacking

Paolo Di Canio was tonight appointed as head coach of Sunderland following the sacking of Martin O'Neill yesterday after the defeat by Manchester United.

Di Canio has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal to succeed O'Neill at the Stadium of Light, his first job in football since he resigned at Swindon Town following a row about the sale of a player in February. The 44-year-old and his representative met the Sunderland board tonight at the Academy of Light, the club's training ground, and a deal was concluded at 9pm, with the former West Ham forward eager to take over a club just one point above the relegation zone.

Sunderland have failed to win any of their last eight Premier League games, picking up just three points in the process during a slide down the table and owner Ellis Short acted on Saturday night in an attempt to stop the club from being relegated following the 1-0 defeat to United.

Short called Martin O'Neill to tell him of his dismissal shortly before a club statement was released at 9.25 pm on Saturday night that said the "club had parted company" with the 61-year-old.

On Di Canio's appointment, Short said: "The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top flight status. I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us. Our fans continue to inspire all of us in our drive to give them the successful club they deserve. That remains our primary aim."

Di Canio's first game in charge of Sunderland will be at Stamford Bridge next week to face Chelsea and in a baptism of fire he will next face Newcastle at St James' Park in the Tyne-Wear derby, before Everton at the Stadium of Light and Aston Villa away make up his first four games.

The Italian left his position as manager at Swindon following a row over the sale of star winger Matt Ritchie to Bournemouth. He had led the club to the League Two title and the Football League trophy final at Wembley, where they were beaten by Chesterfield.

Di Canio's appointment caused the former foreign secretary David Miliband to resign from his post as vice-chairman and non-executive director of Sunderland, citing the new head coach's "past political statements" as the reason, a direct reference to the Italian's much-publicised fascist views.

But Di Canio's desire and self-belief about being up to the challenges of managing in the top flight has never been in doubt and he said after he left Swindon: "I believe I am at a stage now where I am a Premier League or Championship manager."

The sacking of O'Neill, who has repeatedly called for more time to make the side his own, drew anger from the Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. "I was very surprised," he said. "Whenever someone of the status of Martin O'Neill loses his job, then we all have to be on the back foot. This is a guy who has many years' experience, went to Sunderland and picked them up off their knees. OK, they are going through a difficult time, but he is still a top-class manager.

"I think some clubs need to be careful. They need to understand where they are at. They won't always be on the front foot. There are some times when the club just has to be stable and guys like Martin O'Neill losing his job, it's a sad day."

O'Neill – who was interviewed for the England manager's job in 2007 but missed out to Steve McClaren – has already been linked with succeeding Giovanni Trapattoni as the Republic of Ireland manager.

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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee