Paolo di Canio is odds-on to preserve Sunderland’s Premier League status after being officially appointed as the club’s new manager.
Black Cats owner Ellis Short moved swiftly to secure the Italian’s services after dismissing Martin O’Neill following Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat by Manchester United – a result which left them just a solitary point above the drop zone.
The former Swindon Town boss has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal at the Stadium of Light and his immediate task will be to stave off the spectre of relegation to the Championship.
We suggested on these pages recently that Sunderland could yet be drawn into the battle at the bottom and a run of eight games without a win now has them nervously looking over their shoulder.
Di Canio is viewed by some as a controversial appointment due to his right-wing political views and former Labour MP David Miliband resigned from his non-executive director and vice-chairman positions at the club when the announcement was made.
However, the former Lazio, AC Milan, West Ham, Sheffield Wednesday and Celtic striker enjoyed an impressive spell at Swindon despite being severely restricted by the Wiltshire outfit’s financial difficulties and a transfer embargo.
He won the League Two title in his first season as a manager and had put the Robins firmly in the promotion frame in League One before quitting in February over the club’s decision to sell Matt Ritchie to Bournemouth without his consent.
Di Canio is available at 12/25 to keep Sunderland afloat in the top flight and will be looking to have an immediate impact as he takes his new charges to Chelsea on Sunday – a game which the visitors are as long as 8/1 to win.
The Black Cats are priced at 6/4 to suffer the ignominy of relegation to the second tier, which means new punters backing this selection with their free £20 bet after registering would pocket returns of £50 if successful.
Di Canio’s appointment certainly resembles a gamble from Short and his board of directors and whether it will pay off in the remaining weeks of the campaign is certainly tough to predict.
But one thing you can guarantee with the fiery Italian around is that it should be an entertaining ride.