Sunderland made the bold move on Saturday night to part company with their manager Martin O’Neill.
The immediate reaction to this decision was one of shock, given that there are only seven games left in the Premier League season. A little over 24 hours later, the Black Cats announced Paolo Di Canio was their new head coach, again producing a reaction of shock around the football world.
It's a move that seems to make sense however. The only reason for changing manager at this time is to bring something completely new to the team. Di Canio brings that. He is a flamboyant, controversial and divisive figure but that could well be exactly what Sunderland need to spark them into life and pull away from the relegation zone.
When Martin O’Neill took over from Steve Bruce last season he had immediate success at the Stadium of Light. This season has been much tougher for him however. They have won just seven games and currently sit bottom of the form table having slid to just one point above the relegation zone.
Premier League survival has to be all that matters especially given the increased television revenue that top-flight sides will receive next season and so it is understandable why Chairman Ellis Short has made the decision to change managers now.
Paolo Di Canio splits opinion more than most other people in football. He is a man who gets under the skin of his players, management and fans as we saw in his one managerial job at Swindon. He was, however extremely successful there, leading them out of League 2 and then challenging at the top of League 1.
I would imagine that Sunderland have picked the former West Ham player as they are looking for a instant impact, sparking the quality players they have into life in time to preserve their Premier League status. It is highly possible this will happen.
Di Canio has a passion and drive that will certainly fire up the Sunderland team and get them playing with more intensity than we have seen since the turn of the year. Last weekend they were limp, lifeless and lacklustre in defeat at home to Manchester United, a game which proved to be O'Neills last as manager. If Di Canio can shock them into life over these next seven games, then it will prove to be a perfect appointment.
Over the long term it does appear to be a more questionable decision to go with Di Canio. While it may have the desired short term effect, over the course of the next few seasons though it is more doubtful that Di Canio can provide a stable environment for Sunderland to move up the table.
With other managers on the market such as Mark Hughes, Roberto Di Matteo and Steve McClaren, some will question whether they would not be better equipped to bring longer term success and balance to Sunderland than Di Canio.
What is clear is that the Sunderland board are looking for a short term impact to guard against relegation and then they will deal with any long term issues later. Di Canio was successful and Swindon and if he can make the step up, keep his ego and temper in check and bring the best out of his players, there is no reason why he should not succeed at Sunderland.
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