Last-place Sunderland fires manager Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio helped the Black Cats avoid relegation, but got off to an 0-4-1 start this season.
Tony Marshall/Getty Images

LONDON (AP) -- Paolo Di Canio became the first Premier League manager to lose his job this season when he was fired by last-place Sunderland on Sunday.

Di Canio helped the Black Cats avoid relegation after he replaced Martin O'Neill on March 31 but got off to an 0-4-1 league start this season. Sunderland's only win this season was in the League Cup against the third-tier MK Dons.

The firing came after Di Canio said his "players need to release the rubbish from their brains."

Di Canio's appointment in March provoked a widespread backlash, with anger within and outside the club after American owner Ellis Short brought in a manager who had made past statements expressing fascist leanings.

On the evening Di Canio was hired on March 31, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband resigned in protest from his positions as vice chairman and non-executive director.

Following an outcry during a stormy few first days in charge, Di Canio renounced his links to fascism but refused to be questioned on the matter.

Di Canio's only previous managerial experience had been in third-tier League One with Swindon.

He scored more than 100 goals in over 500 appearances as a player with Lazio, Juventus, Napoli, AC Milan, Glasgow Celtic and West Ham among other clubs before retiring in 2008. There also headline-grabbing antics, notably when he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after he was ejected while playing for Sheffield Wednesday in 1998.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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