Paolo Di Canio feared Sunderland sack

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio says he feared the sack in the immediate controversy over his appointment.

Di Canio, 44, had to fend off questions about whether he held fascist beliefs as the focus on his political views overshadowed his arrival in March.

"He [chairman Ellis Short] might have thought, 'Now I'll sack him straight away' because he was under pressure," Di Canio told the Sunderland Echo. 

Sunderland's Premier League run-in

  • 29 April: Aston Villa (a)
  • 4 May: Stoke (h)
  • 12 May: Southampton (h)
  • 19 May: Tottenham (a)

"Instead he backed me 100%, 1,000%. He supported me in an incredible way."

Di Canio started with a 2-1 defeat at Chelsea before he steered the Black Cats to wins over the club's arch rivals Newcastle and top-four hopefuls Everton.

The mini-revival has eased Sunderland's relegation concerns, although Di Canio insists the club are still not safe as they lie five points ahead of third-from-bottom Wigan with four games remaining.

"It was a strange moment, a strange situation in time those three days [after becoming Sunderland manager]," added the Italian ahead of his side's game at Aston Villa on Monday.

"But he rang me and backed me all the way. He said, 'Proceed because you have complete support from the board'.

"From there, I felt even more energy, I was even more focused and even more determined to get the best out of the team, and I believed that no matter what the split with fans, I would look to make them happy as quickly as I could."