PAOLO DI CANIO admits he feared Ellis Short would have a change of heart after the political storm during the first 72 hours of the Italian’s Sunderland reign.
But Di Canio has branded Short’s support “incredible” after the Sunderland owner kept faith in the former West Ham striker as the right man to lead the Black Cats in the survival battle.
Short’s decision to replace Martin O’Neill with Di Canio prompted the first criticism of the American during his four-and-a-half years in charge at the Stadium of Light after the nature of the new head coach’s political views became national news.
Yet Short telephoned Di Canio to express his backing during the furore and reiterated his optimism for the future when the pair held talks after last weekend’s victory over Everton.
Short’s support has paid off, with a third successive Premier League win at Aston Villa tonight virtually assuring Sunderland’s Premier League status.
Di Canio said: “For three days after I signed the contract, what happened?
“I don’t have to go through it all again, but look what happened.
“He might have thought, now I’ll sack him straight away because he was under pressure.
“Instead he backed me 100 per cent, 1,000 per cent. He supported me in an incredible way.
“It was a strange moment, a strange situation in time those three days.
“I thought maybe he would call me at that time and say... But instead 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.”