LONDON (AFP) – Former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has called on the club's next new manager to boost confidence as reports emerged Paolo di Canio was sacked following an extraordinary dressing-room bust-up.
Di Canio became the first English Premier League manager to lose his job this season when he was dismissed on Sunday, a day after a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion left Sunderland bottom of the table.
Renowned for his fiery temper as a forward, the Italian's methods during his seven months in charge at Sunderland went down so badly that, according to Tuesday's Daily Telegraph several players, following the West Brom match, told the club's board they would go on strike if di Canio kept his job.
The Telegraph said the final straw came after Saturday's match when di Canio was involved in what the paper called a "furious two-hour row with his players" following their fourth defeat in five Premier League games.
One witness to the post-match confrontation in the visitors' dressing room between di Canio, who won just two of his 12 league games in charge, and his side told the paper the scene was akin to "all hell breaking loose".
Several players, tired of the way they and their team-mates had been subjected to repeated belittling comments by their boss, went nose to nose with the 45-year-old Italian.
The Telegraph added the row concluded when one player told di Canio: "All you have done since you got here is criticise us and the old manager (Martin O'Neill). The difference is we liked him and would run through walls for him.
"Nobody likes you here. Nobody wants you here."
Quinn, a former Republic of Ireland striker who ended his playing days with Sunderland and later, after a brief spell in charge of the team, appointed his former international team-mate Roy Keane, said the club's American owner Ellis Short needed to change tack if the team were to preserve their top-flight status.
"Sunderland need someone to galvanise the dressing room," Quinn told Talk Sport Radio on Tuesday. "They don't need someone who is going to go out and say, 'I'm in a hopeless situation here, these players are no good'."
Ex-England boss Steve McClaren has been linked with the vacancy on Wearside, as has former Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo.
But di Matteo's fellow former Italy international Gianfranco Zola, currently manager of second-tier English Championship side Watford, has ruled himself out of succeeding compatriot di Canio.
"Of course I am flattered that I am being considered for that, but I am really happy over here and I like what I am doing," Zola told Sky Sports.
Meanwhile Quinn called for former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball, currently in caretaker charge after being promoted from his backroom staff post, to be considered for the job on a permanent basis.
"I'd give Kevin Ball a look at it. Nobody can expect Sunderland to win their next two Premier League matches against Liverpool and Man United because they're two of the best teams in the country," Quinn said.
"It would be wrong for people to turn around and say, 'You're on trial for the next two games'. The important things are the performance levels, the application and the dedication."