The Italian manager becomes the first victim of the new Premier League season, but his controversial methods made a rod for his own back.
A 3-0 defeat to West Brom on Saturday and a bust-up with senior players on Sunday were the final straws of the former Swindon boss’ tenure at the Stadium of Light.
However, despite the Black Cats’ poor start to the new campaign, which has only heralded one point from five games and sees the club bottom of the league, Di Canio has not helped his cause.
The passion that he had for the project was clear to see, with his over-exuberant celebrations during the side’s 3-0 derby win over Newcastle last season a classic example. When things were going well, and they did briefly after he took over from Martin O’Neill at the club, the fans reacted positively to his dynamism and desire.
However, due to the fact that the former West Ham attacker wears his heart on his sleeve, when things started to go wrongly, it was very easy for the fans and players to dislike him.
The word outspoken nearly does not sum up his reaction to his side’s recent defeats and it seems that Di Canio was virtually incapable of keeping his thoughts to himself. There is certainly room in the game for constructive criticism of a player’s poor performance, but the continual weekly berating of the playing staff in the media was always going to take its toll. Di Canio lost the dressing room long ago, and the bust up with the players on Sunday was the inevitable last nail in the coffin.
In some ways, what Di Canio was trying to do was admirable. He wanted players that were ready to fight for the cause and be professional, and ousted those with poor discipline, such as Stephane Sessegnon.
However, his holier-than-thou approach is slightly hypocritical – this is a man that pushed a referee to the ground during his playing career and was accused of making fascist hand gestures to antagonise rival supporters. Not exactly a saint himself.
The irony of Sessegnon’s goal for new club West Brom in Di Canio’s last game will not be lost on the Italian. Despite the 29-year-old not covering himself in glory after drink-driving claims, the Benin international was one of the club’s most technically able players. Di Canio’s rash decision to sell him instead of trying to man manage him was a clear example of impetuous behaviour, when a more considered approach was needed.
The players reacted to the latest chastising after the West Brom defeat, and for the club there was only ever going to be one choice in a battle between a new manager and the playing squad.
Di Canio openly admitted recently that there was no chance of him changing his less-than conventional methods.
“I'm never going to change my regime. I am what I am. My way to manage the team is for the top, top level. I have to be clear to everyone - the board, the chairman, the fans - I'm never going to change.”
As such, Sunderland’s decision to sack him was made all the more easy.
image: © Hilton Teper