Sunderland chairman reveals ruthless streak sacking O’Neill for Di Canio

Sunderland Football Club owner Ellis Short.
Sunderland Football Club owner Ellis Short.
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OWNER Ellis Short showed his ruthless side when he took the decision to axe Martin O’Neill and appoint Paolo Di Canio to the new role of head coach, writes Graeme Anderson.

Previously, the American billionaire has been guided by others when it came to managerial appointments.

But the decisions to sack the manager and to bring in the Italian, were entirely his own.

That was confirmed when vice-chairman David Miliband resigned his post within seconds of the 44-year-old ex-Swindon Town manager being appointed.

The former Labour Foreign Secretary felt his place on the Sunderland board was incompatible with Di Canio’s more right-wing leanings.

He said: “I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future. However, in the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it is right to step down.”

The fact that Miliband’s announcement was made within minutes of Di Canio’s arrival being confirmed, suggests the South Shields MP was not involved in the appointment process.

The resignation will have irritated Short but it is not something he will lose sleep over if Di Canio has the rejuvenating effect the owner hopes for.

Short has parted company with Niall Quinn in recent years, among others, and knows that while the loss of Miliband is regrettable, it is as nothing compared to the importance of staying in the Premier League.

Since taking charge of the club, Short has allowed himself to be guided by others he regarded as more expert in the business.

Generally, he has not been overly impressed by the results.

Many people inside football would have advised him not to appoint Paolo Di Canio but many of those same people would have backed the appointments of Roy Keane, Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill and in Short’s mind, none of those signings have proved successful.

If Sunderland are going to go down this season, they will at least go down on his terms.

He has made his first genuine signing – the first sole 100 carat decision of his own in terms of the manager – and it is a key one.

Whatever happens in the next seven games, Short will feel that at least he didn’t stand helplessly by as the club he desperately wants to succeed, subsided into the Championship without a fight.