GARY ROWELL: Di Canio spark saved Sunderland

Paolo Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio
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SUNDERLAND’S final position of fourth bottom wasn’t what Ellis Short had in mind when, back in August, he followed up a great away draw at Arsenal by splashing out £22m on two players.

He has every right to feel let down, as have the fans, with a season that at best was mediocre and could have been a whole lot worse.

A top 10 finish and a cup run was the accepted target for the season, but we nowhere achieving either.

We won only five games in front of our fans all season and the fact that only QPR scored fewer goals than Sunderland in the Premier League, tells its own story.

Far too often the football was negative and early in the season it seemed that only Steven Fletcher was capable of scoring.

It wasn’t as if there was ill feeling or unrest amongst the fans towards Martin O’Neill, in fact quite the opposite was true.

Everybody was willing the boyhood Sunderland fan to bring success to the club that we all crave, but it wasn’t to be.

More and more, Martin O’Neill cut an isolated figure on the touchline and you could see the pressure was starting to tell.

He was sacked after the Manchester United game, but it was probably the game before which cost him his job, when Sunderland never looked capable of beating Norwich, who played most of the game at the Stadium of Light with 10 men.

So, enter Paolo Di Canio amid a media storm with one brief, to keep us up: and this he did.

Back-to-back wins against Newcastle and Everton was the best week of the season for our supporters and it was also the week that kept us up.

In my opinion, no week in the season was more important than that one.

We’ll never know if Martin O’Neill would have kept us up, but let’s be honest, things were not looking good and when Paolo Di Canio came in, he gave us a spark just when we needed it most.