Tag: Sunderland

A Loose Cannon Firing In The Wrong Direction: Di Canio Out At Sunderland

In the current hire ’em and fire ’em culture of football management, it is not uncommon to hear statements of sympathy for managers who have fallen foul of the whims of their club’s owners and found themselves out of work. We will have to play a game of wait and see to establish whether this will happen with Paolo Di Canio, whose short spell in charge of Sunderland AFC came to end earlier today, the first Premier League manager of the new season to lose his job. Perhaps more than any other manager in the Premier League, Di Canio was one who had to deliver results. His previous political utterances meant that there were a good many who were deeply uncomfortable with his appointment, and this had the effect of meaning the the knives have, for some, been sharpened from the very day that he first arrived at The Stadium of Light. His honeymoon period in charge of the club could barely have started any more positively, beginning with a three-nil win at Newcastle United and a one-nil win at home against Everton, but since then his results have taken a distinctly downward turn. Sunderland held onto their Premier League place at the end of last season, but they club has only won one of its eleven matches since then, and that was against a team from two divisions...

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The 200% Premier League Pre-Season: Sunderland

It’s all going to be about one man, of course. No matter what you may think of his politics – or, as he has claimed himself, his apparent lack thereof – or any of the other controversies that have followed Paolo di Canio’s career around, there can be little question that once the season has started, at least the attention on the man in the sharp suit and the red and white tie should take the pressure off the players a little. With Alex Ferguson having departed from Old Trafford and David Moyes having left Goodison Park to succeed him, there is likely to be no other club in the Premier League that will be so dominated by the personality of one man as Sunderland AFC will be, and perhaps the biggest question facing this club over the course of the coming season is that of whether this will allow the players freedom or whether it may prove to be a millstone around the club’s neck. Last season, Sunderland did just enough to survive in the Premier League but no more. Di Canio was in charge for the last seven matches, and won two of them. Such a small sample size of results makes it difficult to judge whether his first full season at The Stadium of Light is likely to be a successful one or not, but the...

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A Gamble, Wrapped Up In A Gamble, Inside A Gamble: Di Canio To Sunderland

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the kerfuffle that has blown up surrounding the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as the manager of Sunderland is how much of a surprise certain aspects of his past seem to have been to so many people. After all, he was hired as the manager of Swindon Town almost two years ago, and the “Roman Salute” business at Lazio happened eight years ago. You might not have thought this had you opened a newspaper this morning, though. It was screaming from the front page of The Sun, whilst other newspapers weren’t far behind with their opinions on the matter. On a week that might be otherwise characterised by a distinct lack of English clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, though, this is a story that the press can really sink its teeth into. What, then, do we know of Paolo Di Canio’s political allegiances? Well, we know that he has identified himself as a “fascist” before (his own words to the Italian news agency ANSA in 2005 were that, “I am a fascist, not a racist”), and that the roots of this are most likely to be found in his working class upbringing in Rome. We know that he has two tattoos relating to Benito Mussolini secreted about his body, and that no-one has stopped to comment on the oddness of...

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Sunderland’s Big End Of Season Gamble

In some respects, there was go great surprise to the departure of Martin O’Neill from Sunderland last night. With just two points from his last nine matches in charge of the club, something had gone from the previously ebullient manager’s demeanour, and in television interviews after yesterday’s defeat at the hands of Manchester United he had the air of a dead man walking about him. Where at many other clubs this season it has felt as if managers have been victims of the whims of owners acting with an itchy trigger finger, O’Neill’s departure from the Stadium of Light doesn’t feel like much of a surprise. Ellis Short, the Sunderland owner, had shown loyalty towards O’Neill even after it became more than apparent that Sunderland were heading towards a season of at best mediocrity, but now the club is sliding towards something far more troubling, and whoever steps into his shoes has just seven matches left to try and save the club’s Premier League position. Following this result, Sunderland now sit just one point above the relegation places in the table, out of form and tumbling in a downward direction at a time of year when no-one in such a position can completely rely upon the results of the clubs below them in the table. Yesterday afternoon, Southampton beat Chelsea whilst Wigan Athletic beat Norwich City. This sort of...

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We Deserve The FA Cup That We Get

It is forty years ago this year that Sunderland AFC had one of its finest moments. Bob Stokoe’s team had finished the 1972/73 season in sixth place in the Second Division of the Football League, but had improbably battled their way to the FA Cup final to play Leeds United. They were massive underdogs, of course. Don Revie’s Leeds team were the giants of the era, a team whose failure to win more trophies than it did was a constant source of bafflement amongst the general public. They weren’t much liked outside of Leeds, but their abilities were seldom doubted. The mental images of that match linger long in the memory. Ian Porterfield’s close range goal, which gave Sunderland an unlikely first half lead. The Sunderland goalkeeper Jim Montgomery throwing himself into one of the greatest double saves that football has ever seen. And at full-time, with Leeds having been reduced to speculative long distance punts towards the Sunderland goal in a desperate attempt to break down this obstinate defence, the television producer left the camera on Stokoe, such an unlikely figure to be standing on the touchline for a cup final in a trilby, a raincoat and red tracksuit trousers, as he galloped across the lush green pitch to jump into the arms of the goalkeeper who had won him the cup. It’s likely that a few of...

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