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Paolo Di Canio Sacked: Who Next for Sunderland?

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Like his appointment, it came very late on a Sunday night. Unlike his appointment, it was all rather quiet.

There'd been only a small amount of speculation. There was no Tony Montana style, blaze-of-glory-and-despair shootout; no explosion of the hand grenade. A short statement, and Paolo Di Canio was Sunderland head coach no more.

After a rollercoaster six months, Ellis Short has - rightly or wrongly - decided the Italian was too close to veering off the tracks, and what's needed is a new man to steer things in a far more upwardly direction.

While there's still debate to be had over Short's decision, the question now moves from 'what?' or 'why?' to 'who?' Here's a look at some of the realistic - and not so realistic - candidates:

Roberto Di Matteo

The early favourite, perhaps by virtue of being an available Italian manager with Premier League experience (who wouldn't cost the fortune Roberto Mancini would). His CV boasts a Champions League win, while he'd built a reputation for playing an attractive style of football before he got the job at Stamford Bridge. He'd no doubt be a popular appointment with fans and players, and is certainly an entirely different character to Di Canio, but his record at West Brom may suggest that while he's the right man, this is arguably the wrong time.

Gus Poyet

Like Di Matteo, the Uruguayan has earned something of a reputation for playing attacking football that's easy on the eye, although without the top-level experience to go with it. Left Brighton under a cloud, so he does bring a slight air of controversy potential without the fireworks, and he should be suited to working under the more continental, Director of Football/Head Coach approach. Perhaps, though, too similar an appointment to that of Di Canio, in terms of inexperience.

Tony Pulis

If Ellis Short wants to go in a complete opposite direction to the one he's allowed the club to go in the past six months, then the former Stoke boss would be the man to appoint. There's actually a good chance Pulis would keep the side in the league, but given how awful it'd be to watch, plus the fear of us turning into Stoke - a side we mocked for signing so many of our players - that maybe life in the Championship would be preferable.

Alex McLeish

Life in the Championship would almost be guaranteed if the Scot - who was spotted at the West Brom game that proved to be Di Canio's last - was to get the job. This would be a strange appointment to say the least - and not in the Di Canio gamble style strange either - yet, alarmingly, he does appear to be in the running in these early stages.

Steve McLaren

McLaren was strongly linked before Di Canio took the job, and he probably wouldn't be as bad as some of the other potential candidates. He did excellent work in Holland, while there's a reason he got the England job and was so highly thought of by Alex Ferguson. Given how his time in charge of the England team turned out, however, maybe it's best to look past the man with the strangest accent this side of Didi Hamann.

Gianfranco Zola

In the summer, we were linked with pretty much any player to have eaten a bowl of pasta; now, it seems, that will go for managers as well. Zola's time in a Premier League dugout may not have went brilliantly, but he's since went on to build an impressive side at Watford - one very unlucky not to be playing in the Premier League. Again, he'd be a risk, but it's becoming a struggle to find a candidate who isn't.

Marcelo Bielsa

If the players thought they had to work hard under Di Canio, it'd be great to see their faces when Bielsa takes his first training session. However, while he does focus just as much on fitness, there's a great tactical mind behind it as well, with Pep Guardiola and Tata Martino, amongst others, citing him as a big influence. In the end, his methods weren't quite sustainable to Bilbao, but for a couple of years they were one of the best sides to watch in Europe. I doubt he'd come here, but if there's even the slightest chance, the please let it happen.

Rene Meulensteen

The Dutchman is extremely highly-rated by all players who have worked with him, with Ryan Giggs, Robin van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo amongst those to have praised his coaching ability. After an extremely brief spell in charge at Anzhi, his name has been bandied around for a couple of other positions - including England U21s - and he'd certainly be an intriguing choice.

Peter Reid

If Ellis Short decides to go down the interim route - which would be a bit strange, with only five games played (but then so is sacking your manager) - perhaps it'd be best to just bring back Sunderland most successful manager of the Premier League era. He knows the club and the fans, and should at least have the players on side. Worryingly, I started writing him into this as a joke, but now...

Sir Alex Ferguson

Spotted on his phone during the Man Utd-Leverkusen game, the only logical explanation for that, and Di Canio's sudden departure, is that the great Scot has decided retirement isn't for him, and he's taking the first Premier League job available. He should at least be able to stay until around January, when his former job may become available again...

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