• Premier League

Di Canio feared sack after controversial arrival

ESPN staff
April 29, 2013
Paolo Di Canio feels indebted to Sunderland owner Ellis Short © PA Photos

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio says he feared the sack following the political storm that surrounded his arrival at the Stadium of Light.

The 44-year-old's appointment caused major controversy due to his political beliefs and alleged links with fascism.

The decision to bring in Di Canio as Martin O'Neill's replacement in March appeared to alienate a section of the club's support, with the Durham Miners' Association asking for their banner to be removed from the Stadium of Light in protest.

The Blacks Cats were forced to release a statement clarifying their manager's views, and Di Canio has commended owner Ellis Short for his support during that troubled period.

"For three days after I signed the contract, what happened? I don't have to go through it all again, but look what happened," Di Canio told the Shields Gazette. "He might have thought, now I'll sack him straight away because he was under pressure. Instead he backed me 100%, 1,000%. He supported me in an incredible way. It was a strange moment, a strange situation in time those three days.

"I thought maybe he would call me at that time and say... But instead, he rang me and backed me all the way. He said: 'Proceed because you have complete support from the board'. From there, I felt even more energy, I was even more focused and even more determined to get the best out of the team and I believed that no matter what the split with fans, I would look to make them happy as quickly as I could."

The former West Ham and Charlton striker's only managerial job prior to joining Sunderland was a spell at Swindon Town. And Di Canio says he is extremely grateful to Short for opting to appoint a manager without top-flight experience.

"Every day I realise that what has happened to me is even more incredible," Di Canio said. "When I first got here, all I thought about was the team but now I can appreciate what a big moment it was for this club. The decision the owner made was not easy because I was a League One manager, a League One manager. Let us be honest about it, I was a League One manager - it's a fact.

"And on top of that, there's the fact that I left in difficult circumstances. People know about that. But if you didn't know the circumstances, you might wonder about me. He [Short] was the first in the top league to believe in me. That was an incredible thing for me and made me closer to him even more because he gave me the opportunity I dreamed of many years ago of managing in the Premier League."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.