Paolo Di Canio is Sunderland’s new manager

Paolo Di Canio: Had talks yesterday. Picture: PA

Paolo Di Canio: Had talks yesterday. Picture: PA

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Sunderland have appointed Paolo Di Canio as their new coach on a two-and-a-half year deal.

Di Canio will take charge from today after travelling to the north east of England for talks yesterday and signing on the dotted line last night.

The 44-year-old Italian replaces Martin O’Neill who was sacked following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Manchester United, which left the club a single point above the relegation zone.

Di Canio’s first objective will be to revitalise a squad for a seven-game run-in which will determine where the Black Cats will play their football next season.

They are just a point above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone after a run of eight games without a win.

Club owner Ellis Short has moved fast and was clearly determined to make an appointment ahead of a difficult run of games which takes the Black Cats to Chelsea this weekend ahead of a derby trip to Newcastle and the visit of Everton, whose 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final replay victory on Wearside last season had such devastating consequences for O’Neill’s reign.

Di Canio is Sunderland’s fifth manager in a little more than four years, and the first the American will have chosen since Niall Quinn’s departure as chairman.

His appointment represents a gamble for Sunderland given his volatile nature. The 44-year-old resigned from his post at Swindon in February, citing a number of off-field events including the sale of star man Matt Ritchie. Di Canio joined the Robins in May 2011 and departed with the club top of the League 1 table having overseen their promotion from League Two.

Yesterday, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and Aston Villa counterpart Paul Lambert slammed Sunderland’s decision to sack former Celtic manager O’Neill.

Rodgers said: “I was very surprised. Whenever someone of the status of Martin O’Neill loses his job, then we all have to be on the back foot.

“This is a guy who has been in the game for many years, has many years’ experience, went into Sunderland and picked them up off their knees.

“Okay, they are going through a difficult time, but he is still a top-class manager.”

Lambert played under O’Neill at Celtic and still refers to him as “the gaffer”. He said: “I only knew late last night and I was shocked like everybody else at what had happened. I was shocked.”

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