Paolo Di Canio brands Sunderland players 'arrogant and ignorant' after Phil Bardsley is pictured covered in £50 notes in casino

Bardsley was dropped for the final game of the season
  • @jackpittbrooke

Paolo Di Canio launched a ferocious attack on his Sunderland players on Sunday night, saying some of them were worse than "arrogant and ignorant" ones he had at Swindon Town. He added that as a result, keeping Sunderland in the Premier League constituted a "miracle".

Having fought against a bad attitude at Swindon Town, the Sunderland manager said what he had found at the Stadium of Light was even worse, revealing that he had given out seven fines to players in recent weeks.

"It's not acceptable," Di Canio said. "I thought that at Swindon, League Two, arrogant, ignorant footballers in some way so they don't know exactly because they've not had many chances to stay at the top level. I have to tell you unfortunately I found a worse environment in terms of discipline in this club. This is what I've found in the last few weeks so we have to change completely."

Di Canio had already dropped Phil Bardsley from yesterday's squad after he was pictured in a Sunday newspaper lying down in a casino covered in £50 notes in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

"He's out of my squad," Di Canio said. "It's obvious. How I can play a player that probably is blurry for three, four days after what's happened. More important I want to deliver a very clear message I wanted to deliver since the beginning, that there is no excuse to behave like he did. That is something really wrong.

"It's disgusting me even to see the image for the club. The day after I discovered what had happened and, obviously, I ring my player and I discovered it was a really bad situation.

"From now I will be more strict because I will judge you more carefully because now we have to improve our professionalism. We have to respect the dignity of the club, fans and rules of the sport."

Di Canio said that bad attitude ran throughout the club, and that a positive example had to be set to the youngsters from the academy.

"If we don't punish this kind of behaviour, what are we talking about? If we don't punish this kind of behaviour, how do [the academy players] grow up? Thinking they can laugh about what they saw on the website picture? Maybe they think it's fantastic; to be like a gangster. But what mentality are we going to deliver?

"And this morning, once again, one player who could have been involved in my squad, they decide 'I don't train today'. They make the diagnosis themselves. One player didn't go to the Academy of Light because he said 'yesterday I had a food poisoning'.

"[I ask them] sorry, are you the doctor? The doctor tried to contact him and three hours he switched off the telephone. This is the situation at Sunderland. This is why I tell you we made a miracle [to stay up]."

Di Canio said there needed to be a change of mentality.

"We need to bring in six or seven players who know how to behave and have a professional ethic and then they can help each other. Otherwise, for me, it's difficult."