LONDON (AP) — Paolo Di Canio's turbulent and divisive Sunderland reign was abruptly ended after less than six months on Sunday as he became the first manager to be fired this Premier League season.
Sunderland announced it had "parted company" with the Italian a day after a 3-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion left the northeast club bottom of the standings and without a win from five games this season.
The firing comes amid reports of player unrest after Di Canio said his "players need to release the rubbish from their brains," and brings an end an uneasy chapter in the club's 134-year-old history.
"The club would like to place on record its thanks to Paolo and his staff and wishes them well for the future," Sunderland said in a short statement, 175 days after hiring Di Canio.
Di Canio's appointment in March provoked a widespread backlash, with anger within and outside the club after American owner Ellis Short brought in a manager who had made well-publicized statements in the past expressing fascist leanings.
Despite achieving the initial objective of avoiding relegation last season, the single point Sunderland had collected from five games this season means he is out of a job after just 13 games in charge.
"It was perhaps (the club) felt that the players were finding it hard to conform to his unique style ... and by the looks of things the players weren't buying into it," former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn told Sky Sports television. "They've made a very brave decision to appoint him, they got what they wanted out of him, and now they've made a brave decision (for him) to go. It wouldn't have been my style."
Kevin Ball, a former Sunderland captain, has been put in temporary charge, with a League Cup game against Peterborough on Tuesday.
Di Canio was only hired at the end of March, with the maverick replacing Martin O'Neill when the team was nose-diving toward the League Championship.
Critics not only questioned his lack of coaching experience — just 21 months at lower-league Swindon — but also his past statements that expressed fascist sympathies.
On the evening he was appointed on March 31, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband resigned from his positions as vice chairman and non-executive director of the club in protest.
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