PAOLO DI CANIO'S turbulent six-month reign on Wearside came to an end last night after the controversial Italian lost the Sunderland dressing room and the club's owner Ellis Short decided to act.

After picking up just one point from the Black Cats' opening five matches of the Premier League season, Short moved swiftly to sack the 45-year-old a little more than 24 hours after Saturday's crushing 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.

The Sunderland chairman will now consider all options available to him in a bid to bounce back from a disastrous start to the campaign. Former Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo and ex-Brighton manager Gus Poyet are the two leading names in the frame to replace him.

Kevin Ball, the club's former skipper, will take take charge of tomorrow's Capital One Cup tie with Peterborough at the Stadium of Light, but Short is hoping to have a new man in charge before Sunday's visit of Liverpool.

Di Canio paid the price for poor results, despite leading Sunderland to a memorable 3-0 victory over Tyne-Wear rivals Newcastle United in April.

The former Swindon boss' outspoken comments and public criticism of his players, particularly over the last few weeks, is known to have infuriated members of the squad he had at his disposal.

Players are known to have openly told Di Canio that they were unhappy with aspects of his management, notably his willingness to highlight a player's poor performance in the media.

Di Canio's assistant Fabrizio Piccareta, goalkeeper coach Domencio Doardo and fitness coach Claudio Donatelli are all understood to have had their contracts terminated too.

A Sunderland statement read last night: “Sunderland AFC confirms it has parted company with head coach Paolo Di Canio this evening.

“Kevin Ball will take charge of the squad ahead of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup game against Peterborough United and an announcement will be made in due course regarding a permanent successor. The club would like to place on record its thanks to Paolo and his staff and wishes them well for the future.”

While Di Canio had been hoping for a chance to improve on just one point from an opening five Premier League games in charge, he had admitted after the crushing defeat to West Brom that he feared for his job.

And with Liverpool and Manchester United next on the horizon, Short opted against prolonging the situation despite allowing director of football Roberto De Fanti to introduce 14 new players to Di Canio's squad over the summer.

When he was asked if Sunderland still had the best man for the job after the defeat to West Brom, Di Canio replied: “Absolutely.”

He added: “If we keep losing, lose, lose, lose, what is the result? I think they (the board) will want a change. It may be two days, a week, a month, two months. I don’t know how long. It is difficult to ask me.”

But he was adamant that he would be able to turn things around. Di Canio said: “Of course, I believe I will be a success, every manager does that. You have to ask the chairman, Ellis Short, the board. I think it is normal they think about what is going on. But I think they will put on the table the facts of what we are trying to do and what we want to change ultimately.

“I am never going to give up. My nature is like this and I don’t change. I cannot be a fake Di Canio and behave in a different way. I am never going to change.”

Di Canio hardly helped his situation at The Hawthorns. After seeing his team comprehensively beaten by the Baggies, he bizarrely told the travelling supporters to keep their chins up. There was a split reaction, but many demanded his removal.

He won just three of his 13 matches in charge, including a Capital One Cup victory over MK Dons and the derby success over Newcastle.

But he did successfully keep Sunderland in the Premier League last season when relegation looked on until Martin O'Neill was sacked at the end of March.

Now Short is assessing his options to replace Di Canio and Di Matteo, who has a friendship with De Fanti, is one of the leading names in contention. Poyet, though, was also in line for the job the last time around only for compensation to pose a problem because he was still in charge at Brighton.

Former Stoke City boss Tony Pulis' odds shortened in the hours after confirmation of Di Canio's exit last night, while ex-Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini and Steve McClaren were two other names in the spotlight.