Posted On Tuesday, 30th April 2013
Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio says he feared the sack following the political storm that surrounded his arrival at the Stadium of Light with some protests from Ghana.
The 44-year-old’s appointment caused major controversy due to his political beliefs and alleged links with fascism.
The Black Cats decision to appoint the Italian infuriated many including some Ghanaians who thought the club’s sponsors Tullow Oil (oil mining company in Ghana) had ignored calls to sponsor the country’s national team but would put money into Sunderland who approved the appointment of a fascist coach.
The decision to bring in Di Canio as Martin O’Neill’s replacement in March also appeared to alienate a section of the club’s support, with the Durham Miners’ Association asking for their banner to be removed from the Stadium of Light in protest.
The Blacks Cats were forced to release a statement clarifying their manager’s views, and Di Canio has commended owner Ellis Short for his support during that troubled period.
“For three days after I signed the contract, what happened? I don’t have to go through it all again, but look what happened,” Di Canio told the Shields Gazette.
“He might have thought, now I’ll sack him straight away because he was under pressure. Instead he backed me 100%, 1,000%. He supported me in an incredible way. It was a strange moment, a strange situation in time those three days.
“I thought maybe he would call me at that time and say… But instead, he rang me and backed me all the way. He said: ‘Proceed because you have complete support from the board’. From there, I felt even more energy, I was even more focused and even more determined to get the best out of the team and I believed that no matter what the split with fans, I would look to make them happy as quickly as I could.”
The former West Ham and Charlton striker’s only managerial job prior to joining Sunderland was a spell at Swindon Town.
And Di Canio says he is extremely grateful to Short for opting to appoint a manager without top-flight experience.
Tullow Oil refused to comment on Sunderland’s decision only saying they can review their relationship with the English side.
A board member of the club David Milliband resigned as the club’s vice-president in protest.