LONDON (AFP) - Paolo di Canio was sacked as manager of English Premier League basement club Sunderland on Sunday after just seven months in charge of the north-east side.
Sunderland announced they had parted company with the fiery Italian a day after Saturday's 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion left them bottom of the table with just one point from their opening five league games.
"Sunderland AFC confirms that it has parted company with head coach Paolo di Canio this evening," a club statement said as the curtain came down on his brief spell at the Stadium of Light which only started on March 31.
The statement added that former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball, already on the Black Cats' coaching staff, would be in charge temporarily while the club sought a permanent successor to di Canio.
"Kevin Ball will take charge of the squad ahead of Tuesday night's Capital One (League) Cup game against Peterborough United and an announcement will be made in due course regarding a permanent successor," the statement said.
"The club would like to place on record its thanks to Paolo and his staff and wishes them well for the future," the club added as di Canio became the first Premier League manager to lose his job this season.
Sunderland's defeat at the Hawthorns was compounded by the fact West Brom's opening goal was scored by Stephane Sessegnon, a player sold to the Midlands club by di Canio amid some bitterness on transfer deadline day.
Afterwards, di Canio said he would be pushed out if Sunderland kept losing but insisted he didn't expect to be on his way any time soon.
"The team, not intentionally, have not gelled together yet but that is normal," the 45-year-old said.
"It is a natural process and it is difficult.
"We have made many changes, we have 14 new players from many countries.
"It is obvious one day if we keep going lose, lose, lose there will be a natural consequences, not only for Paolo di Canio.
"I don't think they will want to keep Paolo di Canio, they will probably want to change. But I don't think that now," he added.
Ellis Short, Sunderland's American owner, brought di Canio, well known in English football as a striker after spells at Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham, to Wearside after calling time on Martin O'Neill's stint in charge.
Di Canio's only previous experience as manager was at lower league Swindon, where he oversaw their promotion into English football's third tier.
But the most controversial aspect of his appointment concerned his alleged fascist leanings, with Britain's former foreign secretary David Miliband, then a local MP, resigning as vice-chairman of Sunderland because of the former Lazio and Celtic forward's "past political statements".
Di Canio took over with just seven matches of the 2012/13 season remaining and relegation a distinct possibility.
A 2-1 defeat at Chelsea in his first game in charge was followed by a 3-0 north-east derby victory at Newcastle in his second, with the outspoken di Canio's knee-sliding victory celebration endearing him to Sunderland supporters.
Then came a 1-0 win at Everton before Sunderland suffered the embarrassment of a 6-1 thrashing by fellow strugglers Aston Villa.
However, the Black Cats only just did enough to avoid the drop by finishing in 17th place.
After Saturday's loss to West Brom, a defiant di Canio said: "One game, one win, will clean all the players' brains from the problems they have now." Short, however, had seen enough and decided di Canio, who won just two of his 12 Premier League games in charge, was no longer the man for the job - a move that has left Sunderland looking for their sixth permanent manager in fewer than five years.