Struggling Premier League side Sunderland have named Paolo Di Canio as their new head coach on a two-and-a-half year deal.
The controversial Italian took over on Sunday after the sacking of Martin O’Neil and has seven-league games to save Sunderland from relegation and help them climb the table.
Their last match saw The Black Cats slump to a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United and left them in 16th position, one point from the relegation zone.
This will be Di Canio’s second managerial position after taking charge of League two side Swindon Town in May 2011. He guided the club to the top of the table and to a League One promotion but resigned in February 2013 after disputes with the club.
The former West Ham and Sheffield Wednesday striker arrived in Sunderland late Sunday night for talks and the club was quick to announce his appointment on their official website.
Club chairman Ellis Short confirmed that Di Canio was just the man Sunderland needed in order to keep their Premier League status
[quote]Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started
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.[/quote]
Paolo Di Canio has never been too far from the headlines throughout his football career that saw him star for Lazio, Juventus, Napoli, Milan and Celtic before moving on to the Premier League. There, he spent the latter part of his career playing for Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton, building a colourful name for himself in the process.
The Italian is widely known for knocking over a referee while playing for Sheffield Wednesday and caused outrage in 2005 when he celebrated his Lazio side’s derby win over AS Roma with a fascist-style salute. He followed the salute by stating to an Italian news agency: “I am a fascist, not a racist.”
The 44-year-old has already sparked controversy at his new club, with director David Miliband – a former foreign secretary in the Labour government – announcing he was resigning shortly after the new managerial appointment.
In his first press conference at Sunderland, Di Canio sought to play down moments from his past and steer talks away from politics and back to the pitch.
[quote]I don’t want to talk any more about politics for one reason because I’m not in the House of Parliament, I’m not a political person, I will talk about only football.[/quote]
“The press like to call me the mad Italian, but I would confidently bet everything I have on Sunderland remaining in the top flight. It’s important that the fans are happy with how the team perform and I hope to achieve that. We’re all working towards the same goal,” he concluded.
Di Canio takes over a Sunderland team that have lost 45% of their Premier League matches this season, with their last victory coming 8 games ago when they beat Wigan 3-2.
The task that has been given to Paolo Di Canio is huge, but has been made worse with the news that top goalscorer Steven Fletcher has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Steven Fletcher has scored 11 of Sunderland’s 33 goals this season and has averaged a goal every 216 minutes.
65% of Fletcher’s shots have been on target this season and has averaged a shot every 55 minutes and a shot on target every 85 minutes.
Fletcher has converted an impressive 26% of his chances and 46% of his clear-cut chances this season, which goes to show how much Sunderland will miss the former Burnley striker in the business end of the season.
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