West Bromwich Albion 3 Sunderland 0 match report: Sunderland patience with Paolo Di Canio is running out
The Calvin report: Embattled manager admits that if his team 'lose, lose lose, there will be consequences'
Sunday 22 September 2013
The pin is being prised loose from the human grenade. Paolo Di Canio refused to countenance change despite a calamitous Sunderland performance against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns yesterday.
To make matters worse, his side were embarrassed by the former Sunderland player Stéphane Sessègnon, who can look upon himself as the refugee from a regime on the cusp of chaos.
Sessègnon's goal, which marked his debut and set his new employers on their way to a 3-0 success, helped to extend his former club's sequence without a win – which began with a 6-1 thrashing at Villa Park last April – to nine games. Di Canio's bizarre mime of contrition to the few away fans remaining at the final whistle convinced no one.
He spent fully three minutes standing 30 yards from supporters with his hands plunged deep into his trouser pockets. He shook his head sadly, patted himself forlornly on the chest and made some "chin-up" gestures. Perhaps wisely, he ignored entreaties to conduct an immediate inquest in the cheap seats behind the goal.
"It is my responsibility to receive their negative energy," he said, somewhat improbably. "It was a bad day for everybody. I wanted to show them I will never give up. We have to keep together. I still believe in myself. I will never change.
"The players need to release the rubbish from their brains. They have to have more confrontation, more anger with each other.
"They need to look into each other's eyes. They lost their belief after 20 minutes. They turned their faces away. They must try to discover their mentality.
"One result could be good medicine. One win and everything will become clear. As an honest, intelligent person, I know we have to quickly get out of this situation. Someone in 10th position can get sacked, but I am not worried about my job. But I am worried about the results.
"You will have to ask the board about me. They will of course ask why we are bottom of the table and think about their decisions. If we continue to lose, lose, lose, there will be consequences."
Albion, a side who would struggle to score against the proverbial team of dustbins, converted three goals with telling ease. To the surprise of only the terminally naïve, Di Canio's high-profile failure is beginning to look like a self-fulfilling prophesy. His insistence that he does not fear unemployment may quickly become a moot point.
Liverpool are due at the Stadium of Light next Sunday. They will be followed by Manchester United, whose manager David Moyes must have enjoyed the most comforting of scouting trips to the Black Country yesterday. A difficult game at Swansea will set up a Tyne-Tees derby of rare significance.
Sunderland's owner, Ellis Short, has a vested interest in bowing to Di Canio's insistence that his new-look side cannot be judged until at least halfway through the season. However, the patience of foreign benefactors in the Premier League is notoriously fragile.
Di Canio has brought so much on himself. Such eccentricities as the apparently arbitrary banning of ketchup are survivable when a team is winning or at least giving the impression of coherence. The chances of Sunderland doing either before long are remote.
Like all those with a perceived power complex and an unhealthy sense of self-esteem, Di Canio is already speaking of himself in the third person. Having turned the training ground into a boot camp, he absolves himself from responsibility for the chaos he has generated.
He and his Italian lieutenants might have signed 14 new players but, in their eyes, it is the team's fault for not gelling immediately and effectively. The laws of human chemistry and the lessons of previous sporting experience are deemed worthless.
Di Canio added a new frisson of avoidable danger by insisting he had sacrificed Sessègnon, Sunderland's player of the year in 2011-2012, because he "didn't care" and was no longer capable of "giving his best". Fate was duly tempted and delivered a grievous blow. In the 20th minute, the predictable problem occurred. Scott Sinclair's diving header from Morgan Amalfitano's right-wing cross was parried into his path by goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.
Sessègnon's simple finish made Di Canio's life immeasurably more complicated. The Benin international, warmly welcomed by Sunderland fans, obeyed the tiresome conventions of the times by refusing to celebrate, but the Albion fans had no such respect.
They launched into a gleeful chorus of "thank you Di Canio" and the tone of a fraught afternoon was set. The cameras will continue to have a fatal fascination with the Italian. His body language is too expressive to resist. He even unwittingly emulated his compatriot Fabio Capello, the former England manager, by pushing his assistant Fabricio Piccareta across the dugout.
Steve Clarke, a contrasting, almost taciturn opposite number, was understandably delighted with Sessègnon, whose work permit came through in midweek. "He did what he was brought here to do," he said. "He's clever on the ball, an entertainer who has a goal in him."
Jack Colback, brutally exposed at right-back, and Ki Sung Yeung, who was nominally a holding midfield player, were both booked for manhandling Sessègnon. Amalfitano, Albion's other debutant, hit the crossbar and was involved in all three goals.
Di Canio's afternoon was summed up when Steven Fletcher was helped off with 20 minutes to go after damaging his right shoulder in the act of volleying over from the edge of the six-yard box under the challenge of Jonas Olsson. He had already used his three substitutes.
Inevitably, Albion quickly extended their lead. Amalfitano attracted two covering defenders, who failed to stop his out-swinging cross, before another error by Westwood led to the ball landing at the feet of Liam Ridgewell, who swept it past him from an angle.
Amalfitano, signed on a season's loan from Marseilles, capped an outstanding performance by drilling a third goal into the bottom corner in added time. For all Di Canio's desperate eloquence, the stampede of the Sunderland fans to the exits was a greater statement of intent. This is turning sour, fast.
West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu Morrison; Amalfitino, Sessègnon (Berahino, 89), Sinclair (Yacob, 69); Anelka (Anichebe, 69).
Sunderland (4-1-3-2): Westwood; Celustka, Diakité, O'Shea, Colback; Sung Yeung; Johnson, Gardner (Cattermole, 69), Giaccherini (Mavrias, 46); Fletcher, Borini (Altidore, 58).
Referee Phil Dowd.
Man of the match Amalfitano (West Bromwich).
Match rating 7/10.
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