Pete Sixsmith hardly had time to bask in the glory of a deservedly praised piece at the ESPN site’s Sunderland pages – http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/2100?cc=5739 – before he had to start writing again, this time on the news of Paolo Di Canio’s sacking. It kept him up late but he needed to get it off his chest …
And so, we say goodbye to yet another manager (or in Di Canio’s case, head coach). That makes four proper ones and a caretaker in seven years. We have had an iconic former player, a middle ranking Geordie, a man with a glorious history and a man for whom the word volatile could have been created.
The search now begins for another optimist to come and make an attempt to put the club back in with a chance of staying up, because we had no chance with Di Canio in charge. Anyone unfortunate enough to have been at the Hawthorns on Saturday would have seen a collection of players who had little idea of what to do once we went a goal down and whose collective sense of responsibility was sadly lacking.
My feeling was that a change needed to be made sooner rather than later and that Di Canio was out of his depth. Players either need a detailed game plan a la American Football or they need to be trusted to make their own decisions. This Sunderland team had neither game plan nor trust and it appears the players had little time for the constant barrage of criticism that came from the head coach.
The appointment was a response to a miserable period under O’Neill and was an attempt to shake things up. The two games that he won kept us up and none will forget that day at St James’ Park, but the poor stuff that has been served up this season indicated that he had not got a settled side in his head and that he did not rate some of the players who the director of football had brought in.
The story is that players confronted Di Canio when he called them in for a training session on Sunday morning. There was a fiery exchange when their commitment was questioned and it ended up with the head coach being relieved of his position. If that were the case, it was best that he did leave – unhappy players will not get you away from the bottom three and there was nothing that he had done this season which suggested that he would be able to do it without their backing.
So, an inauspicious episode in the 134-year history of the club comes to an end. Some were unhappy with his political views; some doubted his credentials after a brief career in Divisions Two and One. The initial high that a new manager sometimes brings dissipated after the thrashing at Villa Park and the tedious draws against Stoke and Southampton.
This season started badly and got worse, with defeats at Palace and West Brom causing alarm bells to ring in the boardroom and on the terraces. His successor has a disparate squad to work with, one that needs a coach who will talk to them rather than at them. That could be Roberto Di Matteo or Gus Poyet, both of whom are available. So is Tony Pulis, but his appointment would start a stampede away from the Stadium, led by me.
There will be a slew of stories in the next few days which will not show the club, the now departed PDC or the players in a good light. Hopefully a new appointment will be made before the Liverpool game on Sunday, otherwise Bally will have to brush up on his Italian.
Peterborough United must be looking forward to Tuesday night and a spot of “giant” killing.
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