Paolo Di Canio travels to Stadium of Light for talks over vacancy
PAOLO DI CANIO is travelling to the north east for talks over the managerial vacancy at Sunderland.
The Italian has emerged as the frontrunner to succeed Martin O'Neill, who was sacked in the wake of the Wearsiders' 1-0 defeat to Manchester United yesterday.
It is believed Di Canio will hold talks with Sunderland officials with a view to being formally appointed tomorrow.
Di Canio's immediate objective will be to revitalise a squad for a seven-game run-in which will determine where the Black Cats will play their football next season.
They are currently just a point above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone after a run of eight games without a win.
It appears club owner Ellis Short is determined to make an appointment sooner rather than later ahead of a difficult run of games which takes the Black Cats to Chelsea next weekend ahead of a derby trip to Newcastle and the visit of Everton, whose 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final replay victory on Wearside last season had such devastating consequences for O'Neill's reign.
The new man will be Sunderland's fifth manager in a little more than four years, and the first the American will have chosen since Niall Quinn's departure as chairman.
Di Canio's appointment would undoubtedly represent a gamble for Sunderland given his volatile nature.
The 44-year-old resigned from his post at Swindon in February, citing a number of off-field events including the sale of star man Matt Ritchie.
Di Canio joined the Robins in May 2011 and departed with the club top of the Ligue 1 table having overseen their promotion from League Two.
After leaving Swindon he outlined his belief that he was now ready to manage at a higher level, telling BBC Sport: "I believe I am at a stage now where I am a Premier League or Championship manager.
"I have already proven my ability in League Two and League One, where there are many arrogant and average players, and I was able to turn their mentality and help them become better footballers.
"You can imagine if I had the chance to do the same at the top level.
"I proved in League One and Two that I was the best manager, and I now feel ready for the next level."
If he does land the job, Di Canio faces the task of galvanising a dispirited squad for a task in which they cannot afford to fail, with the financial implications of the new broadcasting deal meaning relegation is simply not an option.
Sunderland have at times been abject during a run which has seen them collect just three points from the last 24 on offer, and their lack of goals - they have scored just seven and conceded 12 in the process - has been brought into sharper focus by the loss of leading scoring Steven Fletcher through injury for the remainder of the campaign.
Skipper John O'Shea acknowledges that is a situation which cannot be allowed to continue if they are to escape the drop, and he insists January signing Danny Graham cannot bear that burden alone.
He said: "Look, it's so blatantly in front of us. Everyone just has to take responsibility, whether it's scoring from set-pieces, midfielders having shots, scoring goals.
"From last season, it's been a poor return from everyone in that sense, and that's something we will have to work on.
"You need that bit of quality to score goals and create chances, and that's something we are going to have to keep working on and keep believing that we can do it.
"It's going to have to happen at some point because obviously we are missing Fletch, who has been fantastic for us.
"It was hard for Danny in that lone role up top working his socks off. We need to get more support for him and better quality."