Football: Di Canio in line for Sunderland job - reports

Controversial Italian Paolo Di Canio is set to be appointed the new manager of Premier League side Sunderland, according to reports in the British media on Sunday.

Sunderland are seeking a replacement for Martin O'Neill, who was dismissed by the club's American owner Ellis Short after a 1-0 defeat at home to Manchester United on Saturday.

The result left Sunderland just a point above the relegation zone.

Di Canio, 44, left third-tier Swindon Town in February, having guided the club to promotion from League Two in his first managerial role.

Famed in Britain for a fiery temperament displayed during spells as a player at Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic, Di Canio was reported to have travelled to Sunderland for talks on Sunday.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and his Aston Villa counterpart Paul Lambert have both criticised Sunderland's decision to dismiss 61-year-old O'Neill.

"I was very surprised. Whenever someone of the status of Martin O'Neill loses his job, then we all have to be on the back foot," said Rodgers, after his side's 2-1 win at Villa Park.

"This is a guy who has been in the game for many years, has many years' experience, went into Sunderland and picked them up off their knees.

"OK, they are going through a difficult time, but he is still a top-class manager.

"There are some times when the club just has to be stable and guys like Martin O'Neill losing his job, it's a sad day."

Lambert, who captained Celtic under O'Neill during his playing career, said: "I only knew late last night and I was shocked like everybody else at what had happened.

"Nobody is safe. I had the privilege of working under him for five years and it was fantastic."

O'Neill's dismissal was greeted with surprise and anger by media pundits and former colleagues.

Former Crystal Palace and Reading manager Steve Coppell pointed the finger at the short-term approach adopted by club owners in the English top flight.

"For me, I can only think there was a personal confrontation after the game as Martin, in his interviews after the game, looked calm, collected and inspired for the challenge ahead," Coppell told BBC Radio Five Live.

"We are in the realms, I'm afraid, of spoilt-brat reactions because it is their (the owner's) toy."

Former England striker Alan Shearer said he was surprised by the timing of O'Neill's departure.

"It's bizarre. They have gone down the route that Reading have (sacking Brian McDermott)," he said on BBC television programme Match of the Day.

"They are on a terrible run of form but it is the timing of it I find hard."

Stan Collymore, who played under O'Neill as a striker at Leicester City, said the Northern Irishman may have struggled without his former assistant John Robertson, with whom he had worked at his previous clubs.

"John Robertson was the conduit between player and manager," Collymore told talkSPORT radio station.

"He would watch training, perhaps go in a couple of times to see the manager, who probably wouldn't even come out until the last 10, 15 minutes of the session, where everything got much livelier.

"Because it was unusual for the gaffer (manager) to come out and oversee training - like Sir Alex Ferguson or like David Moyes - and what John Robertson would do would be to report back.

"Who's looking sharp, who's not looking so sharp, and I think in terms of this season, Martin O'Neill just hasn't looked himself.

"He hasn't had that sounding board with John Robertson."

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