Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Team Transformed by Dynamic Di Canio

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Team Transformed by Dynamic Di Canio

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES HUNTER

ARMS aloft, Paolo Di Canio celebrated his first home win in his trademark exuberant style.

The Italian strode on to the pitch punching the air and thumping his chest as the fans sang his name at the end of a remarkable week.

What a difference the Italian has made, not just to Sunderland's results, not only to their performances, but also to the mood on Wearside.

Last Saturday, Sunderland were on a nine-sout of the relegation zone and facing a tough Tyne-Wear derby followed by a game against bogey side Everton.

Things did not look good. One week - and two wins - later, and the picture looks very different.

Sunderland have notched their biggest derby victory in more than 30 years, beaten Everton for the first time in 20 attempts, sit 14th in the table and have put six points between themselves and the bottom three.

Di Canio admits: "Could I have dreamed of a start like this? Yes!

"But if I think back to when I came here and looked at the fixtures, to be honest I couldn't look and think 'three points there', 'three points there', 'no points there'.

"Every game is tough.But I wasn't worried because with the quality my players have got, and with my knowledge and that of my staff, even though we were coming here at this level in the middle of the season, I was confident.

"The change has affected the team in a positive way."

Di Canio has been careful to point out that, with 37 points on the board and four games to go, Sunderland are not yet safe. But Sunderland fans now believe that their team will get the points they need. Certainly, if they play as they have in their last two games they should have no problems.

Because Sunderland look a team transformed under Di Canio. His emphasis on fitness, hard work, organisation, defending further upfield and taking more risks in the final third has paid dividends.

Di Canio has got that bit extra out of the likes of Seb Larsson, Alfred N'Diaye, Danny Graham and playmaker Stephane Sessegnon, which has made all the difference. Sessegnon scored the opener in the derby and the decider against Everton, but Di Canio believes he can still get more out of the skilful Benin international.

"He is an amazing footballer, but he can do much better," said Di Canio.

"His finish under pressure was amazing, and his technique is fantastic.

"After three games with me he has scored two goals and I am more than happy."

Di Canio's celebrations ended with him pointing to Sunderland owner Ellis Short up in the directors' box.

"For me it was just respect for the decision he made a few weeks ago, with all the turbulence that happened," he explained.

"At the end I said thank you for making the decision to give me the opportunity at this level. …

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