Sunderland were today looking for a new boss after sacking Paolo Di Canio following his Hawthorns histrionics.
The 45-year-old Italian – who won just three of his 13 matches since being appointed in March – was involved in a furious bust-up with players at the club’s Academy of Light training ground yesterday in the wake of Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Albion.
That came after he bizarrely went on the Hawthorns pitch to tell visiting fans to keep their chins up and was then involved in a stand-off with the Black Cats supporters.
At yesterday’s meeting it’s understood at least two senior players criticised the Italian’s man-management. He was also told the players were fed up of constant criticism in public of them.
Coach Kevin Ball will take caretaker charge, starting with tomorrow’s home Capital One Cup third-round tie against Peterborough at the Stadium of Light, but former Chelsea and Albion boss Roberto Di Matteo has been installed as an early contender, along with Gus Poyet.
The news comes as Albion new-boy Stephane Sessegnon today insisted he had no hard feelings towards Di Canio.
The 29-year-old deadline-day signing opened the scoring against the Mackems on Saturday to help his new club to their first victory of the season.
Sessegnon said: “It’s football and I had the chance to continue playing in the Premier League.”
He refused to celebrate his 20th-minute strike against his former employers but was delighted to open his Baggies account.
“I’m happy for the team because this victory is important,” he said.
“But I didn’t celebrate because I have so much respect for the Sunderland fans.
“There are good players at Sunderland and I hope they can do well for the rest of the season.”
Meanwhile, Albion boss Steve Clarke challenged his side to become giantkillers after their first league win of the season.
The Baggies face two games against Arsenal – starting with Wednesday’s Capital One third round tie at The Hawthorns – in between Saturday’s trip to Manchester United.
“We can be dangerous underdogs,” said Clarke. “The last two performances have been good.”
“We rescued a point late on at Fulham but the second-half performance was good.
“Saturday’s performance was solid with some good attacking play and some good moments and another clean sheet.
“Old Trafford away is one no one expects us to get anything from but we’ll see what we can pick up.”