Sportsview by David Eidlestein
THE departure of Paolo Di Canio from Sunderland was probably the most predictable managerial sacking in the Premier League. Only the timing was slightly surprising.
The Italian had been a gifted but explosive player and a fiery, unconventional coach. His political views were questionable, to say the least, and his man management methods when boss at Swindon were memorably described as 'management by hand grenade'.
At Sunderland Di Canio treated his players like misbehaving children, an approach long thought extinct in the modern world of pampered millionaires and unprecedented player power.
His reign at the Stadium of Light could only ever end one way – precisely as almost everyone in the football world forecast when Di Canio was appointed to replace Martin O'Neill only six months and 13 games ago.
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Di Canio is an eccentric, egotistic, publicity-chasing liability – but he was all those things and more while he was alienating half of Swindon. His personality had not changed.
So while the man himself has been given the bullet, with his team adrift at the bottom of the league, maybe Sunderland's American owner and chairman Ellis Short should be the one in the stocks.
The club were in a precarious position when Short sacked O'Neill and it may be a reasonable, if dubious, argument that the team needed a stick of Di Canio-type dynamite to rescue their season. It succeeded and Sunderland stayed up.
But for Short to then give his manager upwards of £20 million to recruit 14 mostly unproven foreign players and ship out some of the club's most popular and able stars, defies all logic – except for football logic, which is a brand all of its own.
The aftermath of every Sunderland match seemed to feature Di Canio's latest outburst or display of histrionics; fines and dismissals were par for the course. No-one was surprised – except, perhaps, for the chairman.
The new regime was based on fitness and obedience above all else but even Di Canio's hand-picked troops soon became alienated by his dictatorial attitude. In the end it appears that a player revolt was his final undoing.
Managers come and go all the time, of course, and invariably emerge with fat cheques to soothe their slightly damaged reputations. Shadowy chairmen and owners, however, tend to be insulated from general opprobrium because of the wealth they pour in.
Sunderland's supremo does not display the bloodlust or the billionaire's impatience of some owners, particularly from overseas, but he does seem to be under-endowed when it comes to making character judgements. Short by name, short on nous.