Arriverdici Roberto

John McCormick writes: It seems like only a few weeks ago that I wrote  about having a modern, professional, forward looking set-up that would do us well for the future. Then we sacked the manager. Now the director of football has gone. This shows I know nothing about the game and am not fit to tie the laces of he who does. So, without further ado, let’s go to that man, Pete Sixsmith, recently seen on TV, for his expert take on the situation

Sixer says it in Iitalian.  Arriverdici, Roberto
Sixer says it in Italian.
Arriverdici, Roberto

I can’t say that it came as a shock when the news came through that Roberto Di Fanti was no longer Sunderland’s Director of Football. In fact, the big surprise was that he has lasted as long as he has after the abrupt and correct termination of Paolo Di Canio’s time at the club.

I have no idea of what has gone on behind the scenes at The Stadium of Light, but there are a number of quite interesting scenarios. I’ll put mine forward and we’ll  see if you, the reader, can come up with any more.

First of all, and I think that this one will get most people nodding their heads in some form of agreement, there has been a show down between Di Fanti and Gus Poyet over the players coming in and going out over this transfer window.

In the summer, Di Fanti brought in a number of players who were touted as first team regulars and it is clear that neither Poyet nor his coaching staff were enamoured with the likes of Dossena, Cabral, Roberge and Diakite. Not one of those four has engaged with English football and it is likely that the other three will join Cabral in finding new employers before the transfer period closes in two weeks’ time.

Poyet looks to have been sourcing his own prospective signings (Bridcutt and Buckley from Brighton, assorted Argentinians from South America and Europe) rendering Di Fanti impotent in terms of his job.

Has there been an “it’s him or me” situation in the owner’s office? If there was, there was only one loser – and it wasn’t a Uruguayan former Chelsea and Spurs midfielder.

The second option is that Ellis Short took a close look at the players who have been brought in, the deals that have been struck and the levels of performance from the aforesaid players and decided that his former high school Social Studies teacher from Independence, Missouri, would not have blown the transfer budget on the players mentioned above, let alone on Jozy Altidore.

Short is a Missourian, a state that calls itself “The show-me-State.”. Missourians don’t believe in bullsh** and judge people by what they do. Short was hoping that he had found a man who would avoid wasting money on the likes of Danny Graham and Asamoah Gyan, but who appears to be as hapless as the men who worked for O’Neill and Bruce.

As a ruthless capitalist hedge fund owner, there was no arm round the shoulder for Di Fanti and he wasn’t exhorted to get it right next time. He was sacked.

Another scenario is that it was Di Fanti who was responsible for the embarrassing situation we have created over Ji Dong-won. A bid of £5m. was apparently turned down in the summer from Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund. Di Canio and Poyet have tried to find a place for the Korean but he continues to exhibit all the ability of Eddie Waring performing Swan Lake after several pints of Tetley’s Bitter.

He has now gone to Augsburg for a tenth of what was offered during the summer and will play the rest of the season for them. Then, when the summer window opens, he will go to Dortmund , who are a much higher profile club than either Sunderland or Augsburg. And on a free transfer.

Ji - Who made what mistake and when?
Ji – Who made what mistake and when?

Was Di Fanti responsible for this mess? Nick Barnes on BBC Newcastle tonight made it clear that it was Di Canio who wanted him to stay – a sacking offence if ever there was one. So, that appears to put Roberto in the clear. It will be interesting to see if any stories come out in the next week or so regarding this one.

On the positive side, we have brought in two good loan players in Ki Sung-Yeung and Fabio Borini, so Di Fanti can claim some praise for that, but his overall record appears poor. But then again, was he hampered by the madman we had as Head Coach at the start of the season?

What is the precise role of a Director of Football? Some clubs have them and others don’t. They are there to have an overview of the whole club and to influence the club ethos from Under 9’s to the first team.

It allows for continuity if a manager or coach leaves and a good DoF will help the new manager settle into the club and focus on the first team while the other coaches continue their work lower down – at least it does in theory.

Could Poyet work under a DoF that he already knows or will Short, the show me Missourian, leave it to a manager who, so far, has hardly put a foot wrong in his three months on Wearside?

Only time will tell.


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13 thoughts on “Arriverdici Roberto”

  1. Good article Pete.

    If all supporters would have taken off Borussia Dortmund’s hand for 5m for Ji then why on earth did di Canio insist we keep him – if indeed it was his decision – apart from the fact that he was … mm .. a little eccentric? (Nothing against Ji by the way. He seems like a nice lad, and I wish him well).

    I don’t know what goes on at football clubs behind the scenes, but I hope Short has given up the idea of a DoF. Common sense says that having two people running the team isn’t going to work. By all means get someone in to deal with the contract negotiations, legal and financial side but leave the recruiting of players to the manager and his scouts. Poyet has a vision of how he wants the squad to develop. Having to negotiate and explain to a DoF exactly what he wants is a waste of his time and energy – time that’s better spent on the training ground.

    The departure of di Fanti is good news; if Poyet is able to create an environment that suits him, he may be more inclined to stay long-term.

  2. With Poyet transforming the team and getting results on the field it was only a matter of time before DF went.

    Poyet’s own work has enabled him to see off a rather mediocre DoF in pretty much short order.Had Poyet not got the results though, maybe things might have stayed as they were.

  3. Is ‘Di Fanti’ Italian for ‘rubbish’? Because that’s all he brought to the table. In retrospect the Italian ‘adventure’ has been a disaster from top to bottom.

    Here we have a DOF who, at best, bought us a load of 2nd rate benchwarmers, incapable of making any positive contributions. Combine that with Di Canio’s bizarre and hopeless coaching and man-management, it was a recipe for inevitable disaster from day one.

    Glad that Poyet is in charge: that alone gives us a good shot at avoiding relegation. The way he’s taken a bunch of, let’s face it, largely ham and eggers, and transformed them into a competitive unit, speaks wonders for his talents. We must hang on to him.

  4. ‘The Di Saster era’? I like it. I suspect we’ll find out soon enough what has happened. Maybe Poyet outmuscled Di Fanti in the transfer market, maybe Short hasn’t canned the DoF role but feels Di Fanti was not the man.

    Poyet is a cut above Di Canio in every aspect, the latter being a man you were never convinced had a clue who he really wanted to sign. Poyet has coached and managed at a much higher level and already looks like he has far greater knowledge of players. If this was a sacking to tell Gus that he is the main man and will be backed then Short has to be applauded as Poyet is the best thing to happen to us in a long time.

  5. I was led to believe that Di Fanti was a former agent , so no conflict of interests legal wise at least. Didnt stop him using he’s contacts though and Mannone, Ki , Borini and on a good day Giacharini aside he’s signings were either promising youngsters like Whatmore and Ba or flops.A 50% succes rate and that’s being generous , we might sign Ki, we won’t sign Borini and I feel Giacharini will be gone as soon as we get a decent offer for him. Our star signing , our ” centre forward ” is not up to the job. A similar priced flop in Graham was the final straw where O’Neill was concerned , likewise Altidore and Di Fanti.Ellis Short is no fool even if the people he employs at SAFC sometimes are, luckily in Poyet he placed a diamond amongst the manure and he obviously showed up Di Fanti and Di Canio for the charlatans they are .Theres been a showdown behind the scenes with Poyet and Di Fanti, possibly a ” him or me” situation , ES had to decide whether to back the thourough bred or the three legged cart horse . To he’s credit ES accepted a little egg on face, corrected he’s mistake and thankfully the days of the “Three Dons” are coincided to history. Di Fanti , Di Canio , for future simplicity should we just refer to this period as Di Saster?

  6. I believe that as an agent De Fanti had Guidetti on his books so he had no influence in bagging a long term target who went on loan to Stoke.

    Are we a laughing stock with the Ji situation; yes and we lost out big time moneywise. Was there any knowledge by the SAFC team that this was going to happen? Didn’t signing until the end of the season strike a warning note.Hasn’t some agent pocketed a hod of money from Dortmund?

    Has DF served up the same garbage for the January window as he did in the summer?

    It is hard for agents to change their spots or not react to the environment they work in. I just wonder if SAFC got 100% of DF’s time and effort.

  7. Months ago I suggested that Ellis Short had made some poor decisions since marginalising Sir Niall Quinn. Understandably, as it’s his money that is being squandered, he appears to have tried to run the club himself, relying on non-football people as his advisers. Some ill advised signings, who have little impact on the squad must have made him realise that Di Fanti is not the greatest judge of a player. Failing to get something for Ji in the summer and seeing him go for next to nowt can’t have helped.

    Reading between the lines it seems that Poyet has made his own position clear and Short is realising that the best chance Gus has of avoiding the huge financial losses that relegation brings is to allow him a major say in who comes and goes.

    Poyet is performing miracles in the wake of the Di Canio debacle, on and off the pitch and despite our lowly league position things are much more positive. Gus has proved what he can do with the resources he inherited and seeing that, Short surely realised he will have a better idea of players who can strengthen the squad than a former agent.

    But whilst Di Fanti’s departure will be another drain on the finances of the club it will be cheap if this latest strategy means we avoid relegation.

  8. I hope the door didn’t hit his arse on the way out.

    Good riddance. The man was clueless. I do wonder though how much his pockets were swelled on the back of his “performance” for us?

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