Martin O’Neill’s calamitous campaign on Wearside was one of my most depressing memories as a Sunderland supporter – a boyhood lads fan who promised so much but delivered a team that seemed to be slightly off-beat in every department. The solution? Bring in a man who wouldn’t just light up a sorry season, but straight up set it ablaze. That man, of course, was none other than Paolo Di Canio.
Many fans would probably agree that fire is most certainly an appropriate metaphor for the Italian: impressive and captivating at first, but self-destructive within no time. The summer transfer window of 2013, in which Di Canio and De Fanti were unleashed upon the world’s transfer market, summarises the chaos perfectly with a plethora of unproven, unknown what-ifs. Do you remember Ondrej Celustka? I struggle to.
Only two possibilities crossed my mind once the ins and outs of the transfer window were complete, we’re either scaling the table or dropping faster than Yaya Toure from a Lamine Kone tackle. Evidently, the latter came true – but could it have been otherwise?
A lot of results toward the start of the 2013/14 season will be viewed in retrospect as just early episodes of a weekly capitulation, but arguably that isn’t really the case. Altidore’s finish against Arsenal – which was swiftly disallowed - was a disputable decision, and a first away game of the season at St. Mary’s saw two points snatched away from Sunderland with a late equaliser. If, by some stretch of the imagination, results had gone our way, could Paolo have got the ball rolling?
This is something we can only ever speculate on, but it does beg the question of whether it could have significantly improved the position our club is in – not just in the league table, but in mentality too.
If we’d perhaps got off to a fortunate start, Paolo could have held himself together and introduced a sense of stability. From there the club could have started to form a sense of identity, and from there – just maybe – the Di Canio era could be looked back on in a different light.
The same could be said for any of the managers to pass through the red-and-white revolving door, but I just can’t help but think PDC had an aura of back luck that just seemed to plague him. I’d have preferred to have wrote this about Poyet or Advocaat personally, those two had an easier time keeping their lid on - giving me more reason to be positive.
But the fact of the matter is, while this was all conceivably possible, none of it actually occurred. With Allardyce, we now have to look to consistency, lest we be doomed to managerial instability for the foreseeable future.
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