Who is to blame for Sunderland being such a mess over the last two years? It’s probably more than just one manager’s fault, although it isn’t stopping Martin O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio, the man who replaced him at the job before he got sacked as well, from trading accusations.
O’Neill spent 16 months as the Sunderland manager, taking over for Steve Bruce in December 2011. He won 19 matches, drew 16 and lost 19 during his tenure, the best for a Sunderland manager since Roy Keane a few years earlier. O’Neill finished that season in 13th place. The next year didn’t go as well, and after a stretch of eight matches without a win, leaving Sunderland only one point above the relegation zone, he was sacked, replaced by the Italian shortly after he resigned from Swindon.
Di Canio saved Sunderland from dropping to the Championship, but lasted only 13 matches at the job. He didn’t do an amazing job, but it seemed like his win in the derby against Newcastle was enough to keep him as manager for another season. However, only one point from the first five matches in 2013-2014, not to mention players pretty much asking the board to sack him led to him being let go after three wins, three draws and 7 losses.
According to Di Canio, the team he got from O’Neill was terrible, out of shape, maybe looking for other reasons to his lack of success with the team.
O’Neill hasn’t waited too long to reply, calling Di Canio a charlatan, and didn’t seem to dismayed by seeing him get the ax from the Sunderland board.
Paolo stepped in there and basically, as weeks ran on, he ran out of excuses. I had a wry smile to myself. It’s like a 27-year-old manager stepping in and the first thing you do is criticize the fitness of the team beforehand. If you’ve ever seen Aston Villa play, you’ll see the one thing I pride myself on is teams being fit. What you’ll find interesting is that when he started the team wasn’t fit for the Chelsea game. Then the following week when he won at Newcastle, not being fit wasn’t mentioned. Then about two weeks later they got mauled by Aston Villa, someone asked him about the fitness. Suddenly, he didn’t know where to go. Because the team, as it progresses, should be getting more fit. And then, at the start of the season, when he lost by a late goal at Southampton, he was asked about the fitness regime, that he was going to have them the fittest team in the league. Suddenly, the fitness wasn’t for that game but for Christmas, when the winter months set in. You know, I did have a wry smile at that one.
O’Neill is the newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager, and made his comments during an interview as he’s heading towards his first match at the new job.