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Di Canio: I saved Sunderland

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio is convinced it was his arrival on Wearside that saved the Black Cats from relegation.

• Di Canio eyes six signings

Sunderland have suffered a poor season this campaign, a slide towards the relegation cliff forcing club officials to replace former manager Martin O'Neill with Di Canio - the Italian's arrival coinciding with the club picking up eight points from six games.

And Sunderland confirmed its Premier League status for next season earlier this week when Wigan failed to beat Arsenal at the Emirates.

It was a survival act which Di Canio believes, would not have eventuated had he not joined the club.

"I have to be honest, yes I think we would have gone down," Di Canio told the Guardian. "In my opinion this team was down.

"Some people said I would be too hard and would stress the players but we have recovered mental energy."

But Di Canio said the club has learned for from the mistakes of this season, pledging to have a fitter, stronger and ultimately better Sunderland squad by the start of next season.

"The fact that I can start the pre-season with my players next season, helps a lot," he admitted to the Sunderland Echo. "I have big plans for next season and how I want us to be and I need to get my message across.

"But we will do that this summer. When you spend 35 nearly 40 days together before the start of the season, as we will, and every day you can have double sessions where you deliver your message, then you know it will be understood."

Having already revolutionised aspects of the Black Cats regime including training, diet and down time, Di Canio has revealed he intends to continue what he believes to be vital work.

And the 44-year-old believes that being afforded more time with his players will allow him to perform more significant changes.

"The job was difficult when I first came to Sunderland because the mentality when I came in here was difficult," he explained.

"It is still difficult because you can't change everything in a few weeks You have to change something to get results and that's what we focused on. But in the future it will be different and, I'm sure, exciting. The techniques and systems we introduced paid off when I went to Swindon and we won.

"I don't want to say it was a similar environment [to Swindon], but for that level, there had been a relegation and we created a revolution in terms of mentality and then at the end, we won the league and delivered also a fantastic job. It will be exactly the same in here. I'm sure we will have more satisfaction next season. I'd bet everything on that now."

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