SO now it’s over to Paulo Di Canio to take up the reigns and put his own mark Sunderland.
Martin O’Neill only wanted the best for Sunderland and, as sad as it is to see him leave the club, Ellis Short has made a safe and consistent choice despite the timing of the decision.
As unnerving as the timing was to sack the manager, everyone knew it was a matter of time.
The West Ham legend is, in my opinion, not a shock appointment as others has expressed and is quite a safe option to take.
First of all, if in the next seven games he inspires Sunderland to stay up in the Premier League, he will be remembered as the man who kept us up. If we lose the relegation battle it won’t be his fault anyway.
More importantly, after a tough tie against Chelsea at the weekend, we travel just a few miles up the road to face Newcastle United.
Our old enemy are not at all safe themselves and are just three points above the relegation zone.
This, along with other results from the teams around us, has made this season one of the most frustrating for a Sunderland fan after the departed O’Neill spent almost £30m on players.
Secondly, if we do go down, Di Canio will have a brilliant Championship squad to play with and will be expected to bring them back into the Premier League.
I doubt we would lose any big names because on current form who would take them and match their wages?
We should be able to come back up automatically and Di Canio will be hailed as the hero.
The appointment of the outspoken Italian has not excited Sunderland fans as much as first thought.
After Roy Keane, another charismatic former legend of the game, took control there was an outpouring of love for the man.
I just think the minorities of Sunderland fans are being cautious to back the new man so they don’t have to contradict themselves when they hound him out in a year or so as they have with the past two gaffers.
Di Canio, in my opinion, was probably the best choice.
When Steve McClaren was first mentioned I was rounding up friends to man the Queen Alexandra Bridge to stop him getting anywhere near the Stadium of Light, and the same goes for Mark Hughes.
Then there was Roberto Di Matteo. It was a big ask for someone with a recent Champions League crown to their name, not to mention with the nature he did it in, to come to relegation strugglers.
Nobody else was firmly linked with the vacancy and that left Di Canio.
And more importantly, he was free of charge.
In an age in which overpaid, badge-kissing footballers have found loyalty almost as easy to simulate as injury, Di Canio embodies the passion and commitment of another age.
And he will bring that attitude and passion to the touchline and the training ground.
Whether he is using Sunderland as a stepping-stone to bigger things, only time will tell.
I would not mind in the slightest if in a few weeks time we beat Newcastle, beat the drop and start winning games as of next season in the Premier League.
The controversial Italian has expressed his ambition to manage in the top flight and now he has his chance to prove his worth.
His interviews and press conferences, his tone and way with words remind me of one Sunderland, Derby and Nottingham Forest legend who I refuse to liken Di Canio with just yet.
But it is all passion and commitment to the cause that I am seeing come from the man who scored one of the Premier League’s greatest ever goals and showed one of the best examples of sportsmanship ever witnessed on a football field.
When he caught the ball with the goal gaping as Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard rolled around in pain it outlined his flair for the unconventional.
The 44-year-old will need some of that to help Sunderland survive and fans should always expect the unexpected from the new boss.
A good friend of mine said last week that he never started supporting Sunderland because we won things and played the best football.
He supported them because he loves them.
And I could not echo that view more.
There are people who will turn up for the first few games just to say they were there when Di Canio took charge, make their quick, uninformed decision on how his team sets up and then return to the armchair or the bar stools and criticize Sunderland to anyone who will listen.
The appointment comes just as the season ticket renewals come out and yet again, I will be there to watch my heroes.
I will be wearing the red and white shirt with the badge inked into my arm and no matter if we win lose or draw – I am a Sunderland fan.
Times are yet again tough at the Stadium of Light and our direction is unclear.
But there is one thing that true fans of the marvellous club can do and that is support the team no matter who is in charge or who pulls on the shirt.
All we ask is for 110 per cent commitment to the cause.
Ha’way the lads.
- Martin Dunn