Ousted Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio broke his silence Tuesday, telling Sky Sports in a statement that his time at the Stadium of Light had been “unfairly cut short” and that he was keen to return to management as soon as possible, preferably in England.
“I remain confident in my ability and I want to manage again in England as soon as I can,” he said. “When things like this happen it is important to take something positive from it. I have learned a lot from my brief time at Sunderland and I am sure that this will only make me a better manager in my next job.”
It had better, or his chances of taking over an English club will be next to nil.
Di Canio’s no-fun boot-camp approach to training didn’t exactly go over well with Sunderland’s players. In an interview with Chris Young of the Shields Gazette, club captain John O’Shea confirmed the squad had mutinied following last month’s 2-1 loss away to West Bromwich Albion—a match that included a bizarre confrontation between the Italian and the traveling supporters.
“That was obviously done,” he said when asked if he and his teammates had taken a stand against their controversial former manager. “But we have to move on now.”
Di Canio, for his part, denied any such row, claiming in his statement, “There was no training ground bust-up.” He insisted that many of the Sunderland players had since sent him text messages thanking him for helping them improve as footballers.
Some of them may have, but they’d almost certainly be in the minority.
Beyond a handful of decent results, including a memorable win away to Newcastle last season, Di Canio’s time at Sunderland will be mostly remembered for the controversy surrounding his appointment (due mostly to his political views) and that peculiar altercation with the club’s fans at The Hawthorns.
As chief executive Margaret Byrne told the BBC, the environment at the club had become “brutal and vitriolic.” Following a team meeting on Sunday, she was approached by senior players about the situation. Di Canio was sacked later the same day.
The 45-year-old maintains that much of what has been reported about him in recent days has been “wholly untrue” and, as he added in his statement, he is confident he would have been able to turn things around at the Stadium of Light if given more time.
“I am certain that had I been allowed longer, I would have been able to develop the team to achieve the success Sunderland fans desire,” he said.
Di Canio ran Sunderland like a dictator runs a state. And, perhaps appropriately, he was ousted by a palace coup.
It’s a style that will never work in England—or in much of modern European football—and unless he can reform his approach, he will struggle to find work in the country he wants to work in most.