LONDON (AFP) - Sunderland are taking legal advice after the team's former manager Paolo Di Canio launched a scathing attack on the struggling Premier League club.
Di Canio branded the Black Cats "weak" as a club and called some of his former players "cowards", with his strongest criticism reserved for captain John O'Shea, Phil Bardsley and Lee Cattermole.
In his comments over the weekend, the controversial Italian, who was sacked in September after just 13 games in charge, also suggested he was too good for Sunderland and confirmed his intention to make his name as a manager in England with another Premier League club.
Sunderland's owners have been infuriated by Di Canio's outburst and hit back in a statement on Monday that hinted they were considering legal action.
"Sunderland AFC would like to express its disappointment in relation to the disparaging comments made recently by Paolo Di Canio regarding the club and its players," the statement read.
"The club is immensely proud of its players for the dignified and restrained manner in which they have conducted themselves publicly since Mr Di Canio's departure, and it is particularly disappointing to read such comments when there are legal obligations in place to ensure such behaviour does not occur.
"The club is now considering its position with its legal representatives.
"Having reached a cup final for the first time in 22 years, whilst also enjoying a run of only one loss in 12 games, we want to focus on what is a positive time for the football club and we would hope it is possible to draw a line under this matter quickly and that there will be no repetition.
"Neither the club, head coach Gus Poyet nor the players will be making any further comment on the situation.
"We are looking forward, not back and are focusing on the vital games we have ahead of us." Since Di Canio's departure, his replacement Gus Poyet has led Sunderland to the League Cup final thanks to a shock semi-final win over Manchester United, while also improving their prospects of avoiding relegation.