Sunderland manager announced after O’Neil axing

2013-04-01 09:27

London – Paolo Di Canio has been named the new coach of English Premiership strugglers Sunderland, a move which sparked the resignation from the club board of an ex-foreign minister outraged by the Italian’s right-wing views.

Di Canio replaced Martin O’Neill, who was sacked on Saturday.

“Sunderland AFC have confirmed the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as Head Coach on a two-and-a-half year deal,” said a club statement yesterday.

The 44-year-old Di Canio will take charge from today in succession to O’Neill, who was axed following a 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United, which left Sunderland just a point above the relegation zone.

Di Canio left third-tier Swindon Town in February, having guided the club to promotion from League Two.

His appointment immediately sent shockwaves through the struggling club with David Miliband, the British foreign minister from 2007-2010, resigning from his role as vice-chairperson and non-executive director.

Miliband said he was quitting in protest at Di Canio’s self-proclaimed support of fascism and his praise for former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

“I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future,” said Miliband.

“It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games. However, in the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.”

Despite the controversy, Sunderland’s American chairperson Ellis Short backed Di Canio to succeed in his principal task of keeping the club in the lucrative Premiership.

“Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started,” said Short.

“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 have shown tremendous patience and understanding this season. They have continued to back the team in huge numbers, both home and away, and that is something that continues to inspire all of us in our drive to give them the successful club they deserve.

“That remains our primary aim.”

Di Canio had spells in Italy with Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio and in Ireland with Celtic during his controversial playing career.

He famously served a long suspension for shoving over referee Paul Alcock while playing for Sheffield Wednesday in 1998.

O’Neill (61) was in charge at the Stadium of Light for just 16 months, having succeeded Steve Bruce in December 2011.

The Northern Irishman was the fifth top-flight manager to lose his job this season following the sackings of Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea, Mark Hughes at Queens Park Rangers, Nigel Adkins from Southampton and Reading’s Brian McDermott.

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