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Di Canio gone, Sunderland in turmoil?

It was a break-up we all saw coming, but maybe not quite so soon. Paulo Di Canio’s on-pitch plea to fans last Saturday to stick by him and keep their chins up, turned out to be the beginning of the last brief encounter in the Italian’s six-month Sunderland marriage. A day later he was gone and now owner Ellis Short is once again looking for a saviour to keep his team in the Premier League.

Roberto Di Matteo has been installed as Coral’s early favourite to succeed his compatriot ahead of Gus Poyet (5/1), Alex McLeish and Tony Pulis (both 6/1). But things are likely to get a lot worse for the Black Cats before they get better, whoever is in charge. Propping up the table with just one point from five games, their next four Premiership fixtures comprise home games against Liverpool and Manchester United and an away trip to in-form Swansea before the massive derby clash against Newcastle at the Stadium of Light on October 27th.

You have to say that, at the moment, they look doomed. Coral rate them 6/5 joint second favourites with Hull to be relegated (behind Crystal Palace) and with three clubs going down that is not a healthy prognosis.

Those front-runners for the job could well be thinking it might be a good idea not to be in too much of a hurry to put their hands up; four games on and this crisis may well start looking like a lost cause. Caretaker boss Kevin Ball is a hero at Sunderland and, at 16/1, is a likely outsider to be given the job full time (Ball has been here before, in 2006 after Mick McCarthy was sacked; in difficult circumstances he took five points from the final ten games).

But Short and the fans will surely be looking to someone with a bigger name and bigger credentials to turn things around.

You can see the appeal with Di Matteo. A Champions League winner as recently as 16 months ago, the former Chelsea boss would, you would imagine, find it easier taking over the back-room staff he would inherit from Di Canio than a non-Italian. This is an appointment that would make a lot of sense if Di Matteo, out of work since Roman Abramovic sacked him last November, actually fancied the job.

Short, having taking a gamble with Di Canio, may now be looking for what he considers a safe option and so this might not be the right time to be taking a chance on the likes of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer (16/1), untried at this level, or former Man United number two, Rene Meulensteen (25/1).

So Poyet, Pulis and McLeish will probably get on to the short list, possibly along with Steve McLaren (16/1), often ridiculed for his stint as England manager, but with a good overall CV in club football.

Written by Jon Freeman