Paolo Di Canio pins blame for poor start on his players


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The Independent Football

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has attempted to deflect some of the blame for his side’s winless start onto his players, claiming they need to take responsibility for their performances.

The Black Cats head for West Bromwich Albion today stuck at the bottom of the table with just a single point from their four games to date.

Di Canio insists he is not concerned by a run of results that could get worse before it gets better, with Premier League leaders Liverpool due at the Stadium of Light next Sunday and champions Manchester United the following weekend. However, the Italian knows how much of a boost a win over West Bromwich, who are only a point better off, could provide and he is challenging his players to make a statement.

Di Canio said: “Paolo Di Canio is the first responsible because I pick my players, I choose the strategy of how we have to play. But the players have to feel a responsibility. They are adult footballers who have to have the desire and the courage to say, ‘Yes, we lost, we lost, but I am sure I did my best.’

“It doesn’t mean you can be bad or not give quality in training sessions; you have to be professional. Don’t smile, but train harder. It doesn’t have to come only from the manager, otherwise it’s tough. This is why I hope we are going to win soon.”

Despite Di Canio’s insistence that his masterplan will not have unfolded until his new-look squad – he made 14 signings during the summer – has around 20 games under its belt, he is acutely aware of the psychological effects of a lengthy run of games without a league victory.

The former West Ham, Lazio and Milan striker has learned from experience that players not currently in the team can become restless and upset the harmony within the dressing room as they attempt to stake their own claims. Asked if he had seen signs of that creeping in at the Academy of Light, Di Canio said: “No, but I know that can happen. I can see only someone who is sad because he is not playing and we are losing games. That’s typical.

“I am not worried about a typical situation because I was angry [as a player] to stay on the bench, warm up for 45 minutes and not get on the pitch. I then went into the shower and said many bad words inside myself to the manager. But the day after... That was my nature, that’s why all the managers loved me, because inside I said bad things, but the day after, I was an example.”