Sunderland hires manager Paolo Di Canio after firing Martin O'Neill

Sunderland has hired Paolo Di Canio as manager and given him a 2 ½-year contract.

The Premier League club announced its decision Sunday, one day after Sunderland fired Martin O'Neill, the fourth manager of a relegation-threatened team to lose his job in the past four months.

Owner Ellis Short said in a statement that "the sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status," and "I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us."

Sunderland is 16th in the standings, one point out of the drop zone.

Di Canio, a 44-year-old Italian, resigned as manager of third-tier Swindon in February.