A 2-1 defeat at Chelsea in his first game was followed by a famous 3-0 derby victory at Newcastle in his second, and his knee-sliding celebrations at St James’ Park earned him a place in Sunderland folklore with his tenure still in its infancy. A 1-0 home win over Everton next time out persuaded many more of the doubters that he was the real deal, but it proved to be a false dawn. Sunderland came down to earth with a painful bump when they headed for struggling Aston Villa on April 29 and returned on the wrong end of a 6-1 hammering, and they eventually secured their top-flight status, if only just, by finishing in 17th place. Di Canio had completed the first part of his mission, and set about the second phase with relish. With director of football Roberto De Fanti and chief scout Valentino Angeloni in place, he began the process of rebuilding the squad he inherited from O’Neill. The trio recruited 14 new players during the summer transfer window, several for the first-team squad but others for the development ranks. But crucially, having already lost loan signing Danny Rose following his return to Tottenham, they sold Simon Mignolet to Liverpool and, on deadline day, Stephane Sessegnon to West Brom. It meant they had lost arguably three of their most effective players. Di Canio repeatedly insisted it would take time for his new-look side to gel, and he was unworried by a difficult start to the season which saw them lose 1-0 at home to Fulham on opening day and take a single point from the four games they have played since. Speaking after a 3-1 home defeat by Arsenal last weekend, he said: “After 20 games, if you are still at the bottom and you are 10 points, 12 points from the fourth place from the bottom, you can start to think, ‘Eighteen games to go, okay, plenty of points, but it’s difficult’. “But now we are all there and we are starting to play good football.” Even after Saturday’s reverse at the Hawthorns, where he spoke to travelling fans from the pitch following the final whistle, Di Canio was remaining upbeat. He said: “One game, one win, will clean all the players’ brains from the problems they have now.” However, Short decided enough was enough after just 12 Premier League games in total which brought only two wins, and the Black Cats are now looking for their sixth permanent manager in less than five years. Just how attractive a proposition the club currently is with a radically overhauled squad remains to be seen. But what is certain is that players who have been criticised publicly by the outgoing manager need an injection of confidence if they are to halt a slide which was in danger of spiralling out of control. Press Association Paolo Di Canio’s turbulent reign as Sunderland manager is over after the Italian and the club parted company. The 45-year-old’s departure was confirmed by the Black Cats on Sunday, a little more than 24 hours after a 3-0 defeat at West Brom left them rooted to the foot of the Barclays Premier League table. A statement said: “Sunderland AFC confirms that it has parted company with head coach Paolo Di Canio this evening.” Former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball, currently on the club’s coaching staff, steps in to lead the team on a short-term basis. Sunderland’s statement added: “Kevin Ball will take charge of the squad ahead of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup game against Peterborough United and an announcement will be made in due course regarding a permanent successor. The club would like to place on record its thanks to Paolo and his staff and wishes them well for the future.” Di Canio arrived on Wearside amid a blaze of publicity in March as owner Ellis Short took a gamble on the former Swindon boss after deciding to end Martin O’Neill’s tenure. It proved a controversial appointment as critics cited reports of his alleged fascist sympathies, prompting the club to make a stout defence of their new manager. However, it was never likely to be dull as Di Canio embarked upon what proved a colourful six months in charge. Speaking when he was unveiled, he said: “I am the unique one. I am joking, actually I’m not. I am at the beginning of my career. “One day we will discover that I am either a fantastic, good or normal manager.” On the pitch, he was handed the reins with just seven games of the 2012-13 season remaining and relegation a genuine possibility.