Di Canio appointed as new Sunderland head coach

Paolo Di Canio has been appointed as the new Sunderland head coach on a two-and-a-half year deal.

The 44 year-old Di Canio who left Swindon in February will succeeds Martin O’Neil who was sacked on Saturday after a run of poor results left the Black Cats only one point above the relegation zone with seven games left.

Sunderland chairman Ellis Short said: “Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started.

“The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status. I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us.”

Di Canio has no top-flight managerial experience, however, the Italian believes he is ready for the challenge of becoming a Permier League manager

Speaking earlier in March Di Canio said: “I believe I am at a stage now where I am a Premier League or Championship manager.”

Sunderland are on a run of eight games without a win, with their last league victory coming at Wigan on 19 January.

Di Canio’s appointment has prompted former foreign secretary David Miliband to resign his post as vice-chairman and non-executive director of Sunderland.

The former Labour Party leadership candidate said: “In the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.”

Di Canio has admitted to having fascist leanings, telling Italian news agency ANSA in 2005: “I am a fascist, not a racist.”