Paolo Di Canio has broken his silence to defend his Sunderland tenure – as caretaker Kevin Ball gets the opportunity to earn an extended crack at the job.
The ex-Black Cats boss released a statement which claimed he should have been given more time to mould his new-look team into a winning unit, while also denying talk of a massive training ground bust-up.
He said he intends to manage again in England. Quite how Di Canio’s exercise in damage limitation stacks up when players have confirmed there was discontent behind the scenes is unclear. But he has claimed several players texted him to thank him for his work at the club.
His statement read: “When I joined the club last season with the aim of saving them from relegation I was happy to be offered the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. I walked into a challenging situation but achieved what I was asked to do, the highlight of which was the fantastic performance and win against Newcastle, which is something I will always remember.
“When you bring in 14 new players, many from overseas and very few with Premiership experience it is going to take time for them to adapt to the English game and to gel as a team. As I have said many times, I love English football and I feel that my time at the club has been unfairly cut short as given the chance, 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.
“There has been a lot written in the media in recent days, much of it wholly untrue. There was no training ground bust up as some are reporting and many of the players have since sent me messages thanking me for my time as their manager and helping them to improve as footballers.
“We could see that results had not gone as well as any of us had hoped, but I felt as a team we could turn things around.
“I remain confident in my ability and I want to manage again in England as soon as I can. When things like this happen it is important to take something positive from it. I have learnt 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.
“Even though my time at the club ended prematurely, I would like to thank Sunderland for giving me my first opportunity to be a Premier League manager.”
Ball is understood to have been told he will get until at least the Manchester United game to bolster his case for the job despite a fresh batch of reports in Italy that Gus Poyet will be given the green light to take over.
The former Brighton boss remains the firm favourite with the bookmakers to take charge at the Black Cats, but the extended references that Short got from the Withdean Stadium have given him plenty to ponder in the meantime.
Senior sources in the dressing room appear to believe that if Ball can impress over the next seven days he will be given until the end of the season by the Sunderland hierarchy, although with Short playing his cards close to his chest the race still appears to be wide open.
The owner has already taken the counsel of his director of football Roberto De Fanti – who favours Poyet – and has also tasked chief executive Margaret Byrne with a key role in the recruitment process. Byrne is due to get married in a couple of weeks, which may provide more of a time frame for a decision to be made.
Ball has the support of the players, with several Black Cats’ players coming out to back the claims of the caretaker.
Jack Colback is the latest to throw his weight behind Ball’s claims, adding to a vote of confidence from John O’Shea.