With the benefit of hindsight, Paolo Di Canio’s entire spell at Sunderland was a sorry chapter in our recent history.
The Italian arrived in March 2013 with the sole objective of ensuring the survival of the club in the Premier League, which he achieved with wins over Everton and Newcastle.
However, issues surrounding his man management, coaching methods and political beliefs ensured that no stage of his tenure was uneventful.
During the Italian’s only summer at the club, significant changes were made, with a host of new players coming in under Di Canio and his director of football Roberto De Fanti.
Whether he actually wanted these players is questionable, as the Italian has subsequently stated that he wanted more ‘British-style’ players.
Either way, the boss and his new squad made a horrendous start to the 2013/2014 season, as we only picked up one point from our first four games.
On this day ten years ago, Di Canio managed Sunderland for the final time in a 3-0 defeat to West Brom at The Hawthorns.
The Baggies weren’t in great form but they’d been given a boost by new signings Nicolas Anelka and Stéphane Sessegnon, who departed after falling out with Di Canio, who in turn stated that he ‘didn’t care’ about us.
From the moment the Benin international departed, it was clear what was going to happen when this fixture, which marked his West Brom debut, came around.
The game itself was dull, uneventful and lacking in creative spark. The home side created the better of the chances throughout, with Fabio Borini the only bright spot for the Lads on another miserable afternoon.
Despite the best efforts of Kieran Westwood, West Brom took the lead through Sessegnon, who tapped in the rebound after the Republic of Ireland international had made a good save from Morgan Amalfitano.
From this point on, West Brom never looked back.
They created a hatful of opportunities after the break and got a second goal through Liam Ridgewell, before Amalfitano scored with a piledriver from just outside the box.
In truth, the game didn’t matter, because the fans knew that the Italian’s time at the club was up.
Di Canio’s uncompromising style had alienated his entire playing staff along with many supporters, and although he’d possibly implemented some creative and interesting coaching methods, the environment was simply too miserable for it to work.
After the game, he slammed his players one more time.
It was a bad day for everybody. I wanted to show them I will never give up. We have to keep together. I still believe in myself. I will never change.
The players need to release the rubbish from their brains. They have to have more confrontation, more anger with each other.
They need to look into each other’s eyes. They lost their belief after twenty minutes. They turned their faces away. They must try to discover their mentality.
Di Canio’s bizarre post-game interaction with the fans showed the best and worst of him, but his ability to connect with the supporters was undermined by his inability to accept his own shortcomings.
Days later, he departed after a rumoured dressing room row with the players.
It’s said that the experienced members of the squad broached the issue with Sunderland’s hierarchy, which finally led to the end of the Italian’s time at the club.