Paolo Di Canio was only in charge of Sunderland for six months, two-and-a-half of which featured no competitive action. That may lead some to hint he wasn’t given enough time, a conclusion precludes the possibility of somebody quickly showing he wasn’t right for the job.
While Di Canio kept Sunderland in the Premier League last year, he only took eight points from seven games. After his offseason changes and slow start to this year’s Premier League, there was no evidence beyond hope that he would be a success with Sunderland.
Whether Ellis Short and Margaret Byrne made the right move, however, will be dictated by Di Canio’s successor. There is no point getting rid of a head coach if his replacement doesn’t improve the club, so if Sunderland were to go out and sign, say, Richard Farley, the Di Canio departure all of a sudden looks rash.
Ellis Short, Sunderland’s American owner, is expected to move swiftly with Robert Di Matteo, the former Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion manager, and Gus Poyet, until recently in charge of Brighton, among the favourites. Roberto Mancini, out of work after leaving Manchester City, has previously expressed interest in the job but would probably be beyond Sunderland’s budget. Meanwhile Steve McClaren, currently helping Harry Redknapp coach QPR, is probably an outsider.
All of those men would be an improvement on Di Canio, but the question is whether Short can lure any of them north. That’s part of the reason the timing of this move was so crucial. If Sunderland continued dropping points, it would have been more difficult to convince a quality boss to board a sinking ship. Five matches into the season, there’s still time to turn things around.
Whomever Short tabs will be responsible for answering the question on many American soccer fans’ minds: What does this mean for Jozy Altidore? The U.S.’s first choice number nine was relegated to the bench on Saturday, with Di Canio electing to start Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini. With Fletcher separating his shoulder at The Hawthorns, Altidore looked set to resume a first-choice spot, but if the new boss goes to a one-front, Fletcher, Altidore, and Borini will be fighting for one spot. Those wouldn’t be good odds for a man who started this weekend on the bench, and even if the new coach persists with a two-forward set, does Altidore beat-out one of the other two? You’d think so, but every man sees their players differently.
Ten months out from the World Cup, Altidore and the U.S. will be particularly interested in whom Short tab to succeed Di Canio. Given the options, however, Sunderland almost certainly made the right move.