Paolo Di Canio orders survival crackdown

Rest days and alcohol axed as new Sunderland manager begins relegation fight at Chelsea today

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Paolo Di Canio has wasted no time in stamping his authority on the Sunderland players by imposing a new hardline regime that includes fewer days off and fines for drinking alcohol.

With the club perilously close to the relegation zone, the controversial Italian begins his career as manager at Stamford Bridge today with clear ideas of what needs to change from the previous regime of Martin O'Neill.

Di Canio has clearly emerged with his confidence intact after a tumultuous first week in charge at the Stadium of Light, during which he was forced to say he did not believe in the ideology of fascism to calm the storm that had engulfed him following his appointment.

Now he intends to find the seven points he believes are required from Sunderland's seven remaining games to keep the team in the Premier League.

His first complaint off the pitch was that the players had too many days off. "Before me they used to have a Wednesday off but for me, no. Never, never I give a Wednesday off. It is one of the crucial days for me.

"It is common here to have Wednesday off and Sunday off. Footballers are only working one hour or one hour and a half, they have 22 hours' free time [a day]. How can you give Wednesday off and Sunday off? This is in my principle. It is already a big change, I'm sure.

"It will happen because we have to have a full measure of not only physical sessions but also, more important, a tactical and technical session. We are going to practise much more than in the past because I have received some notice of what happened in the last few weeks. The way we are planning to work with my players will be more intensive. We will work more often.

As for players drinking alcohol, he is equally adamant. "Of course [it is forbidden]. Why does a footballer have to drink alcohol? If I discover my players drink alcohol, not even Friday but on a Monday night, I will fine him. If we are talking about drinking a glass of red wine during the dinner with family on Monday night or Tuesday night it is good, because red wine is good for the heart and anti-cancer. We know this, but of course Thursday is a no for alcohol.

"We know how to manage our players. It happened to me two years ago and my players went out to celebrate a victory and we were top of our League, not at the bottom. They went out to celebrate promotion and they went out after the game until two o'clock in the night.

"The next game they didn't play. How can you go into the game blurry if you drink? They have to work. We have a big privilege. They are obliged on Saturday to be as fit as much as they can."

The way Di Canio handled his players at Swindon Town, in public and in private, was often unorthodox, but he believes the "management with a hand grenade" tag pinned on him was unfair, although he insisted there has to be passion for there to be success.

"This label has caused me problems," he said. "Di Canio brought the club success for 21 months. Only success. That was the most important thing. I don't know if you call it hand-grenade manager. If you are very quiet and don't want to have a problem because you are 100 per cent a diplomatic person, you aren't going to have success.

"I'm not a hand-grenade manager. I'm a Paolo Di Canio manager. I'm this character. The club don't have to be worried because we are going to have success. Sunderland could not have picked a better man for the job. It sounds arrogant but I am going to deliver a winning mentality. I am fully confident I will keep Sunderland up. With my work, I am sure we will restore the confidence for some of them. At this moment they have the maximum ability but you see some are not fully confident.

"I will bring organisation and discipline on the field. We have to work as a unit and persuade my players to get two steps forward instead of 10 steps back. This team looks to me that we drop back. We have to be more aggressive. Many goals we have conceded already weren't fantastic efforts. We should have avoided them. We will be more positive up front and we will create more chances."

Chelsea v Sunderland is today, kick-off 3pm