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Di Canio not alone in making mistakes at Sunderland
Lessons learned? Ellis Short, left, is looking for his second manager since Niall Quinn, centre, left the club
THERE will be an element of relief tinged with a feeling of disappointment emanating from inside the Sunderland boardroom this week, after Ellis Short took the decision to put Paolo Di Canio out of a job.
No longer will Short nor chief executive Margaret Byrne have to cringe, question the actions or draw up a PR action plan for a Sunderland manager who has courted controversy since the day he was appointed.
Yet this was Short's appointment. The first he had made following Niall Quinn's decision to step aside. The American was keen to get it right and in the end he has fallen short.
There is no time to dwell. Sunderland are in a mess after the Di Canio disaster, even if the Italian should be credited with being responsible for keeping the club in the Premier League last season.
After picking up just a point from the first 15 points available to them, the fear is that defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United will follow.
Then Di Canio's successor will be in charge of a team rooted to the foot of the top tier before rivals Newcastle head for the Stadium of Light on October 27.
Regardless of whether it is Kevin Ball, Roberto Di Matteo or whoever else, the new boss will have an incredibly difficult job on his hands – and he will have the same group of players at his disposal as Di Canio did.
Given the rifts and in-house dressing room criticism that Di Canio has helped create, it is more than likely Sunderland could suddenly look a better team without him.
A weight has been lifted off many of the players' shoulders, having become fed up with the former Swindon boss' willingness to play the blame game in front of the media.
But Di Canio's exit will not lead to a quick-fix. The 45-year-old, who still had the support of certain sections of the club's fans even if he was hated by others, cannot be held up as being uniquely responsible for the crisis.
He was merely the front-man for the bigger plan. A bigger plan which is still running behind the scenes and Short must learn from the errors even after he confirms the identity of his third managerial appointment.
Undoubtedly the plan attempted to change too much too soon. While ripping up the previous approach to transfer dealings and pitting for a director of football style has benefits, the extent of the turnaround in a manager's first six months should never have been allowed.
Di Canio might have identified a type of player for Roberto De Fanti, the club's director of football who is a former agent, to target, but it was the latter and highly-respected chief scout Valentin Angeloni picking out the players.
While attacking the foreign market to bring in 14 new players during the summer made financial sense because of the over-inflated fees domestically, the distinct lack of Premier League experience among the recruits was telling.
Few boast a CV with appearances in playing in England's top tier – and those who have are hardly vastly experienced even if there is potential to succeed.
That is why any new manager coming in will do well to pin their faith, certainly initially, on relying on a core of the Sunderland squad possessing Premier League pedigree to get Sunderland out of trouble. Lee Cattermole and Phil Bardsley, when he is fit and regardless of previous stupidity, included.
Nobody can really criticise Short's attempts to transform the club. After years of battling to beat the drop – and previous years of yo-yoing in and out of the Championship before that – he wants to see Sunderland competing in the top half of the Premier League rather than messing around at the bottom.
But that is exactly where his grand plan has landed Sunderland once more.
Rather than hope for rejuvenation, Short should be applauded for acting when he has to replace his manager rather than wait. He was aware of the breakdown between Di Canio and the players, so acted swiftly with 33 league games and 99 points still to play for.
Wherever he turns now will become clearer in the coming days, yet there has to be an acceptance from within the boardroom that Di Canio was not the only one making mistakes.
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