Sunderland defender Carlos Cuellar has praised the revitalising effect Paolo Di Canio has had on the team since his arrival as head coach, hailing the Italian for his "fresh mentality" and knowing "how to treat people".
"The manager has come in and made an instant impression," Cuellar said after the 1-0 victory over Everton took the Black Cats six points clear of the relegation zone. "People are calling it a miracle transformation, but it isn't. It's a fresh mentality, he knows how to treat people, but it's down to hard work."
Everton manager David Moyes received a warm embrace, and also saw how his opposite number's personal approach had created a positive atmosphere around the Stadium of Light, in Di Canio's first home match in charge. "I got a cuddle before kick-off," Moyes said. "I don't know him that well, but he's started off very well." Two wins in Di Canio's first three games, the latest secured by Stéphane Sessègnon's confident strike in first-half stoppage time, is the stuff wildest dreams were made of barely a week ago.
"Every decision was challenged by the crowd," Moyes reflected. "The crowd really got really behind their team; it was an intimidating atmosphere."
Di Canio admits the immediacy of his impact is something even he could not have hoped for amidst the maelstrom of his appointment three weeks ago. "To be honest, when I looked at the fixtures, I couldn't have expected to take six points from these first three games, although we should have had a draw at Chelsea, so it could have been more. I suppose I'm never going to be happy," he said.
He was ecstatic at the final whistle, though his refusal to repeat the touchline knee slide celebration that marked the victory at Newcastle in favour of some rather more modest fist-pumping was perhaps the only down side for the majority of a 44,000 crowd who more than played their part in a first home win in seven attempts.
When asked whether his side can respond to their first defeat by Sunderland since 2001, Moyes's response was emphatic. "I'm really disappointed that question is even being asked," he said, referring to Everton's victory over Manchester City in the aftermath of their FA Cup exit to Wigan. Fulham, the next visitors to Goodison Park, have been warned.