Di Matteo favourite to replace sacked Di Canio as Sunderland boss

Roberto Di Matteo.
Roberto Di Matteo.

FORMER Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo has been installed as the bookies’ early favourite to succeed Paolo Di Canio as Sunderland boss in the wake of the Italian’s sacking last night.

Champions League-winning manager Di Matteo, out of football since his surprise sacking at Stamford Bridge in November last year, is believed to have been sounded out about the prospect of taking the vacant job.

But former Brighton boss Gus Poyet and current Watford manager Gianfranco Zola are also believed to be in the frame.

All three would have no problems in dealing with a multi-national squad of players, with the trio of managerial prospects being fluent in a variety of languages.

Rumours started to emerge on Sunday morning from Italy that Sunderland owner Ellis Short planned a board meeting tomorrow in which Di Canio’s future would be discussed with Di Matteo a prospective successor.

But the club has acted even faster than the rumours in removing Di Canio from his post after only 175 days in charge at the Stadium of Light.

That decision may well have been precipitated by an alleged bust-up at the Academy of Light yesterday.

Claims have circulated that Di Canio held an inquest into Sunderland’s disastrous start to the season in which several senior players rounded on him by questioning his methods and his tactics.

Di Canio was a controversial appointment from the start but he made a hugely positive impact on Sunderland fans by earning back-to-back victories over derby-rivals Newcastle United and bogey side Everton on his way to keeping the Black Cats in the Premier League last season.

But those two victories were his only high points in 12 games in this charge.

And this season’s showing with only one point taken from the first 15, coupled with ropey displays in almost all the games, has sealed his fate.

Di Canio will be disappointed but perhaps not too surprised by the axe.

He said after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to West Brom: “It’s obvious that one day, if we keep losing and losing it will be a natural consequence that the end will come – that’s true of any boss.”

Kevin Ball has been put in temporary charge in the wake of Di Canio’s dismissal and is likely to be in the dug-out for tomorrow’s Capital One cup game against Peterborough.

The former skipper and current under 21 development squad manager will get the chance to push forward his own credentials by hopefully steering the side through to the next round of the cup tomorrow night.