Paolo Di Canio has defended his tenure as Sunderland manager and is hoping to make a return to the Barclays Premier League.
The Italian was dismissed by the Black Cats in September after a tumultuous 13 games in charge amid talk of a player rebellion against his training methods and approach to discipline.
Di Canio replaced Martin O’Neill at the end of last March and was credited with saving the club from relegation after inspiring a famous 3-0 win at north east rivals Newcastle in only his second match in charge.
But despite bringing in 14 new players over the summer, things quickly turned sour with an opening day home defeat to Fulham kicking off a run which yielded a single point from their first five games of the new season.
Sunderland have since made the final of the Capital One Cup and moved to within a point of exiting the Premier League relegation zone under new boss Gus Poyet, but Di Canio believes the players should take responsibility for the poor start to the season.
“There are sometimes managers that are not good enough for some groups but there are also some groups that are not good enough for a manager. In this case, it is the second option,” he told the BBC’s Football Focus programme.
“If you read what those players said when I took charge last year, they praised me.
“In some way, they blamed the previous manager but there was no chaos about that at the time.
“It is not an issue for me. I was sacked like 100 managers in life - but when it happened to me, there is always said to be a problem, but there was not a problem.”
He added: “Five games cannot cancel what I did in the seven games before then, when I saved the club.”
Di Canio was linked with the vacancy at former club Sheffield Wednesday when Dave Jones was dismissed and, while he does not rule out taking a job below the top flight, the ex-Swindon boss is still hoping for a Premier League return.
“I am ready to return,” he said.
“Football is my breath.
“The Premier League is my aim, of course.
“Every manager thinks they are ready for the top, top level but I do not only think about the top.
“The top for me is the place where I can train and work in my way.”