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Johnson hails Di Canio impact

Paolo Di Canio's presence has given Sunderland a lift and instilled fresh confidence in the players, according to winger Adam Johnson.

• Randall: Life seems better

The Black Cats ended a winless run of nine games with a surprise 3-0 victory at Newcastle on Sunday, their biggest win against the Magpies since 1979. Johnson spoke positively of his new manager, citing his personal approach to man-management and strictness over shape as contributing factors to their recent success.

"The manager gives everyone confidence in the team," Johnson told Sky Sports News. "I don't think there was a better way for the manager to win over the fans but they would probably have loved him anyway.

"Anyone with that amount of passion and love of the game is hard not to like. He speaks to you individually and has spoken to me about things such as keeping the team's shape, as he wants it to be perfect. He believes if the team have a good shape then we'll score.

"Our shape on Sunday was excellent and we played off that. Newcastle just couldn't live with us when we attacked. I don't think there was a better way for the manager to win over the fans but they would probably have loved him anyway. Anyone with that amount of passion and love of the game is hard not to like."

Still embroiled in a relegation battle with five games of the Premier League season to go, the win afforded Sunderland some much needed breathing space while also putting further pressure on those around them and Johnson is taking nothing for granted.

"When you look at the league table now it is not quite as scary as it was and we are hopefully going to go from strength to strength," he explained. "There are a few teams that could still get dragged into the relegation fight.

"I don't think anyone down there can believe they are out of the woods, certainly when you look at the fixtures that are coming up for some of them. It won't be between Sunderland and Newcastle who goes down. There are a lot of teams that could get dragged into it. There are five games to go and a lot of points still to play for."

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