It may be four months on from his Sunderland sacking, but that has not stopped Paolo Di Canio from continuing his tirade against the behaviour of his former players with defender John O’Shea the main figure in his crosshairs.
Di Canio was sacked after just five games of the new season with Sunderland sitting rooted to the bottom of the table – a position they would still occupy were it not for a superior goal difference to Cardiff – but he has since gone on the record to heavily criticise his players at the Stadium of Light.
The Italian initially targeted the controversial duo of Lee Cattermole and Phil Bardsley, who he labelled “rotten” after working with them during his short reign on Wearside. However, he continued to describe current club captain John O’Shea as two-faced, suggesting that the defender would not look at him when they spoke and also talked about his team-mates and former manager Martin O’Neill behind their backs.
Addressing Cattermole and Bardsley first, Di Canio said in The Sun on Sunday: “Those two players [Cattermole and Bardsley] were rotten. The most unprofessional players I ever worked with.
“What Bardsley has done in the last year speaks volumes. Photos of him lying on the floor in a casino covered by £50 notes and laughing at the team losing on the opening day, that's public. It's no surprise these players were kicked out of my plans.
“The reason Sunderland stayed up at the end of last season was because Cattermole was injured and Bardsley played very little.”
He then turned his attention to their current state, claiming the Black Cats find themselves in another relegation scrap because they are mentally weak, while singling out O’Shea for criticism in the way he approaches his role as captain.
“I don't like people who, when they speak to you, don't look into your eyes," said Di Canio. “He [O'Shea] should say sorry to some of his team-mates for the many times he came into my office to say something unfavourable about them. This is the same person that also came to me when I first took over and said things about [Martin] O'Neill.”
Di Canio’s final dagger was left for striker Steven Fletcher following the Scots revelation that players were not allowed to smile or laugh during training. Di Canio feels that in order for a professional status to be maintained, players shouldn’t be enjoying themselves when they are not putting in a good performance on the field.
“I don't like people fooling around when we're having a serious discussion about strategy,” said the 45-year-old Italian. “I don't like people who laugh when they keep missing the goal in training or miss a tackle that leads to conceding a goal.”
Finally, Di Canio added that despite the reported player revolt at the Stadium of Light, he received 14 messages supporting him from his former players, claiming that although he was strict, he was professional in his approach.
"On my phone, I have 14 text messages from players at the club supporting me," Di Canio claimed.