Sunderland’s decision to install Paolo Di Canio as Martin O’Neill’s successor has divided opinion to say the least.
Whether he can keep Sunderland in the Premier League and be a long-term success at The Stadium of Light remains to be seen, but it's a gamble the club have taken.
Di Canio has had a good start to life as a manager with impressive achievements at Swindon Town, achieving promotion from League Two and guiding them to a play-off place in League One before leaving his post after 21 months in charge.
However, Sunderland are taking a huge gamble in placing their faith in Di Canio. There is no doubt that his personality and motivational skills can help Sunderland in their final seven games of the season despite difficult games against Tottenham, Chelsea and North East rivals Newcastle. Will this be enough, though?
Di Canio is unproven in management at the higher level and I doubt whether he can be the long-term answer for Sunderland. True, everyone has to start somewhere but more of a grounding in management would have better suited Sunderland given their predicament at present. If you asked any Sunderland fan what attributes they would have wanted from their new manager I think they would have experience of a relegation battle at the top of their list.
If Di Canio does keep Sunderland in the Premier League then he will become an instant hero in the North East. However, expectations as they are in the Premier League and at Sunderland, will mean he has to further improve the team and performances to ensure he is perceived as a successful Sunderland manager long-term.
Di Canio is a highly intelligent, passionate but also complex character. He will need to lift Sunderland and install a belief in the players that they can achieve the possible three victories that they will need to assure Premier League football next season. I am sure he can do what is required but will need to learn on the job which is not always an easy ask.
Di Canio may need to alter some of his ways but hopefully without detracting from the affect he has on his teams. No doubt Di Canio will bring his own ideas to Sunderland, such as a focus on fitness, but to implement any more ideas will possibly take longer. He has been involved in some high profile incidents at Swindon, such as bust-ups with players and supporters, and he will need to learn to do these behind closed doors rather than in public.
Sunderland are taking a huge risk on Di Canio both short–term and long-term. He has the attributes to keep Sunderland up this season but there are still many doubts as to whether he can achieve long-term success at the club.
One thing is for sure, both Sunderland and football supporters in general will be entertained by the Italian and the Premier League will be greatly enhanced by his presence.
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