Di Canio to enforce big changes
Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has promised sweeping changes at the club when he starts to prepare for the new season.
The 44-year-old was hired by owner Ellis Short to replace Martin O'Neill in late March, tasked with preventing the club from being relegated.
Following the Black Cats 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday, Di Canio's side sit four points clear of FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic, who inhabit 18th place in the Premier League table. The club's safety could be secured on Tuesday if the Latics fail to beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Regardless of the Wigan result, Di Canio has promised extensive changes at the Stadium of Light next term, starting with the side's less vocal players.
"We don't have a group of players who speak a lot," Di Canio said. "Just John O'Shea in the back, but in the middle of the field I have all shy guys. It is very difficult, it takes a long time. We have young fellas with energy. To change everything in a few weeks it is difficult. It is obvious that physically, any side that we faced under me, we are very small side compared to the others. They are incredible athletes compared with us.
"I have to make sure we change the mentality, which is down to me. Let me be sure that we keep the club up, and then I'm going to change everything. It doesn't mean I push all the players out, it means keep the right players, and bring in the right players. I don't want to upset anyone but there will be many changes. The way I want to play, my football, is dynamic football. It's crucial to have quality."
Sunderland's point on Sunday could prove to be vital come the end of the season. A second-half strike from Phil Bardsley was cancelled out by a late leveller from substitute Jason Puncheon, but Di Canio reserved special praise for Puncheon's team-mate, Jay Rodriquez.
"You see in people like Rodriquez today," Di Canio said. "He is a modern footballer that can keep the ball even under pressure. He's got ability but he's got strength, he can get up and down the field without feeling tired. Obviously many of the players will remain with me, and they will have an advantage because in the pre-season they will work very hard. But before talking about this [the changes] let me finish with the job we started a few weeks ago."