Paolo Di Canio is massively confident he can keep Sunderland in the Premier League.
Eight matches without a win leaves the Black Cats just one point above the relegation zone, and Martin O’Neill paid for this sequence of results when he was fired on Saturday. The likes of Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren were immediately linked with the post, but the Wearside club sprung a huge surprise by handing Di Canio a two-and-a-half year contract on Monday.
The controversial Italian has already caused uproar in the boardroom, with vice-chairman David Milliband resigning due to the 44-year-old’s much-publicised political views. And whilst a number of supporters are also unsure of the appointment, Di Canio has used his first press conference to assure the Stadium of Light faithful that he will lead them to top-flight safety.
“When I got the call from (chairman) Ellis Short, I felt fire in my belly! I would have swam to Sunderland to take the job,” the former Swindon Town coach said on Tuesday. “Press like to call me the mad Italian, but I would confidently bet everything I have on Sunderland remaining in the top flight. With my energy I’m sure we can get something from the next seven games.”
Of all the teams battling against the drop into the Championship, Sunderland arguably face the most difficult of fixture lists. Di Canio’s reign begins with a journey to FA Cup finalists Chelsea on Sunday, and trips to Newcastle United and Aston Villa are also on the agenda this month, as well as a home clash with Everton. Two successive home games in May could yet prove decisive, against Stoke City and Southampton, before the final game of the season away to Tottenham Hotspur.