* Italian succeeds sacked O'Neill
* Di Canio takes on first top-flight management role
Sunderland appointed flamboyant Italian Paolo Di Canio as head coach on Sunday in place of Martin O'Neill who was sacked by the Premier League strugglers on Saturday.
Di Canio, who enjoyed a colourful playing career with clubs including Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, West Ham United and Celtic among others, joined 16th-placed Sunderland on a two-and-a-half year contract six weeks after quitting third-tier Swindon Town.
"Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started," chairman Ellis Short said on the club's website (www.safc.com).
"The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status.
"I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us."
Fans are likely to be divided over the appointment of Di Canio, who has no experience of top-flight management and inherits a team hovering one point above the relegation zone.
Former striker Di Canio, 44, landed his first job as a coach when he was appointed at Swindon in 2011.
He guided the club to the fourth-tier title a year later and said he was prepared to eat into his savings to fulfil his ambition of taking them into the second tier.
He left Swindon on Feb. 18 after a roller-coaster time with the club.
His passion often boiled over into rows with his players and this season he antagonised fans by telling those unhappy with his decisions to go and support local rivals Oxford United.
Di Canio's first match in charge of his new club is next Sunday's trip to Chelsea.
O'Neill was dismissed on Saturday after the club's 1-0 defeat by league leaders Manchester United which left the north- east club without a win in eight games.