LONDON: Former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has resigned from the board of Premier League Sunderland over the politics of new manager Paolo Di Canio’.

The Labour MP and brother of the Opposition leader had served as the club’s vice-chairman and as a non-executive director. But he wasted no time in resigning after American owner Ellis Short appointed the Italian to take over from Martin O’Neill as manager on a 30-month contract.

O’Neill and Sunderland parted company on Saturday night after the club slid to the edge of the relegation zone after their eighth game without a win, a 1-0 home defeat by leaders Manchester United.

Miliband, who is stepping down as MP for local South Shields to take up a post in New York with the International Rescue Committee, wished the club “all success in the future.” He added: “It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East.”

Di Canio, who has a volatile record as player and manager, had claimed previously to be “a fascist, not a racist” after celebrating a goal for Lazio, one of his former clubs, with a stiff-arm salute.

He was given a one-match ban and fined £7,000 for the incident and was also banned for a match following a similar incident earlier in 2005.

In 2011, when Di Canio was appointed as Swindon Town’s manager, the GMB union withdrew its sponsorship of the club, also citing his political views.

Di Canio scored 48 goals in 118 appearances for West Ham after joining the London club for £1.7m from Sheffield Wednesday in 1999. He began his career at Lazio, and also played for Juventus, Napoli, AC Milan, Celtic and Charlton before later returning to Lazio.

Playing for Sheffield Wednesday in 1998, he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent off and was banned for 11 matches. At the other extreme, he once refused to score a goal for West Ham because the opposing goalkeeper was lying injury in the penalty box.

** Aston Villa remained stuck in the relegation zone after losing 2-1 at home to Liverpool in Sunday’s only Premier League goals. Christian Benteke (31) opened the scoring for Villa with Jordan Henderson (47) and Steven Gerrard (60, penalty) turned the game around for seventh-placed Liverpool.

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