Former Sunderland manager Steve Bruce believes Paolo Di Canio paid the price for an outdated management style after being ousted by the Black Cats on Sunday night.
Di Canio’s controversial reign proved a brief one as he parted company with the club after only 13 matches, his exit coming little more than 24 hours after a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion left them rooted to the bottom of the table with one point from five games.
It is believed the Italian’s strict regime, unpopular with his players, was key to his departure.
“You cannot manage in the Premier League these days through a fear factor,” Bruce said yesterday. “You’ve got to be able to manage individuals.
“Man management has become more relevant in my experience than coaching.
“Once you get yourself in the Premier League, they’re all good players and you’ve got to find a way of getting the best out of them.
“It’s never been my style to criticise anyone in public and I’m disappointed for Paolo. He’s a character. A manager’s lost his job. Management is a lonely place and he’s lost his job this morning. I feel sorry for any manager in that position. I’ve gone through it and it’s not nice.”
Bruce managed Sunderland from 2009 to 2011, taking over after the arrival of current owner Ellis Short, but working under then chairman Niall Quinn.
He believes the club’s approach has changed since Quinn left and Short took over as chairman himself.
“When I first went there with Niall, everything we did was run through Niall and [Short] was a bit stepped back,” he said. “Since he has become chairman he seems much more hands on now. I’m not privy to too much but when I was there all I did was answer to Niall.”
Sunderland will take their time to make sure they find the right replacement for Di Canio after launching the search for his successor. The process of drawing up a shortlist of potential replacements began in earnest yesterday, but it is understood that Short has an open mind about the identity of the club’s sixth manager in less than five years and will not rush into an appointment.
Development coach Kevin Ball, who had ten games at the helm as caretaker manager following Mick McCarthy’s departure in March 2006, will take charge of tonight’s Capital One Cup third-round tie against Peterborough, and could remain in charge for Sunday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool at the Stadium of Light.
Bookmakers have been quick to install former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo as an odds-on favourite to replace his compatriot, but Gus Poyet, Alex McLeish and Steve McClaren are currently all featuring prominently in the betting.
While Di Canio and his staff – coach Fabrizio Piccareta, goalkeeping coach Domenico Doardo, fitness coach Claudio Donatelli and physiotherapist Giulio Viscardi – have gone, the new structure under which they operated remains in place.
As a result, the new manager will be expected to work under director of football Roberto De Fanti and chief scout Valentino Angeloni, who presided over the recruitment of 14 summer signings, and that may limit the field somewhat.
In addition, the successful candidate may also have to do without star striker Steven Fletcher for an extended period with Sunderland waiting for news of the damage caused by the shoulder dislocation the Scotland international suffered in the defeat at West Brom.
In total, Di Canio’s reign extended to 175 days and just 13 games, 12 of them in the league.
Two of his three victories came in last season’s Premier League and helped to secure the club’s top-flight status and the £70 million windfall guaranteed by the new broadcasting deal.