Di Canio: Danny Graham was not fit to play in the league when I arrived at Sunderland

Sunderland manager remains confident his striker will score before the season is out

Ahead of tonight's Premier League match against Stoke City that Sunderland desperately need to win to move away from the relegation zone, Paolo Di Canio has claimed that his striker Danny Graham was not fit enough to play in the league when he took charge of the club in April.

Graham had been signed from Swansea City for £5.5m during the January transfer window by former Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill. The striker has still to score since making his move to the Stadium of Light, but Di Canio believes that is understandable because the player he inherited, like some of his team-mates, was not fit.

"When I arrived Danny, simply, was not fit," he said. "He was not fit enough to play in the Premier League, in my opinion. I do not want to point just the finger at him because that was a general thing.

"He had a long face as he walked around the field during the first few training sessions and I thought, 'Can he play football?' Not because he could not pass, because that was fantastic. So I talked to him about this. Now after three games it has changed and why? Because he feels part of the club. He participates now.

"When the players go through the drills, Danny is intelligent and he is more ready and this is why I am confident he will score. He will get his chance, especially at home, because we will attack more. I know what is going on with a player that normally scores. It is normal for someone like Danny to score every two or three games. I have been talking to him about how we can use his quality depending on how we are going to attack.

"I always encourage him, but I don't have to go too deep with Danny and convince him because this is not a bad moment for him and he is doing well. I see him every day in training in a good mood. He is always the one trying to persuade his team-mates to give more. So he is active, he is not passive. He is not sad, not down.

"Players can have problems, but Danny has no problems. I am sure he will be crucial in these last three games. I'm not saying that because he is the only striker we have got: I'm sure he is going to score in the next three games."

Sunderland have been dragged back into the relegation fight following the weekend wins for Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic. They sit just two points above Wigan and the necessity for victory against Stoke at the Stadium of Light (something they must do without strikers Steven Fletcher, who is injured, and Stéphane Sessègnon, who is banned) – has increased dramatically.

"We have to win," added Di Canio. "We fell in a trap [when they lost 6-1 against Aston Villa in their previous game]. I don't think we're so stupid. Now we have a big scar in our body to remind us that if we get beat like this we can get beat again. I'm sure we'll perform properly. It doesn't mean we'll win 3-0, it means we will perform with desire, dedication and commitment like against Newcastle and Everton.

"We play on Monday night in front of our fans. I can bet everything I've got that there will be no repeat. We could still lose because you can lose at any time and against side, but I am sure you will see a different approach and a different desire and they won't be worried about getting the ball. It will be two steps forward instead of 10 steps back. I am sure they are going to approach this game in a completely different way."

Probable teams at the Stadium of Light

Kick-off 8pm Television Sky Sports 1

Referee L Mason (Lancs)

Odds: Sunderland Evens Draw 12-5 Stoke 3-1

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?