Paolo Di Canio versus the players, his own choices included

One day we'll find it possible to be positive, thinks Jake ...
One day we’ll find it possible to be positive, thinks Jake …

Andrea Dossena, a left-sided defender from Napoli, and Liverpool’s out-of-favour striker Fabio Borini are all but signed on season-long loans, according to reports. But Paolo Di Canio has still to convince us that anyone he brings in, or has brought in, will be an improvement on the most gifted, if also most erratic, member of his squad, Stephane Sessegnon, seemingly bound for WBA (assuming the Qatar deal is really off). ButMonsieur Salut has something else on his mind ….

Among the certainties of recent history
is that Salut! Sunderland collectively went through hoops of fire to present an olive branch to Paolo Di Canio.

His appointment troubled some of us. The club initially handled it abysmally. But we accepted at face value the belated statement emphasising what PDC said he was not, even though his own actions and gestures had made it difficult to criticise those who assumed otherwise. We took comfort from the total lack of racism in his make-up and past actions. We applauded his infectious enthusiasm; we admired the exceptional natural rapport with the fans and the history of the club they support with such undeserved passion and loyalty; we were fired by his immediate results.

The 3-0 romp at St James’ Park was enough to make up for all the season’s bitter disappointments, especially when followed by a good if hard-fought home victory over Everton and ultimate salvation. Martin O’Neill, as everyone except Martin O’Neill knew, had been taking us down. We’d desperately wanted him to succeed and his failure to look like doing so was a huge blow.

When this season started, we were buoyed by a decent little pre-season tournament out east if a little surprised at how little else we seemed to be doing except bringing in loads of new players. We looked at the fixtures list, winced at the home run until mid-December but made ourselves believe the first three games were so winnable that we could buy ourselves breathing space and then pray to do well on the road.

It was all an illusion. I do recall someone at the Blackcats e-mail list saying it would be typical of Sunderland to get no more than a point from Fulham (h) and Southampton and Palace (a) before shocking us out of our trepidation by sneaking wins at home to Arsenal and Liverpool. Let us pray he has got both parts of the scenario right.

But the one factor which I feel, as strongly as possible, would put such a morale-boosting lifeline out of reach is the fear that PDC is not carrying the players along on his wave of commitment to the common cause.

Pete Sixsmith, in his match report, and I, at, separately reached the conclusion that the treatment of Ji Dong-won three minutes into the second half against MK Dons was shabby. How many of us would respond positively at work to being publicly humiliated – in Ji’s case, booed off the field when a quiet halftime substitution would have sufficed – in such a brutal manner?

And what possible improvement do we expect to see in John O’Shea’s game from being torn into in post-match interviews? Generally solid, he was of course guilty of a shocking and costly mistake at Selhurst Park. But this, as someone pointed out in a weekend round-table discussion on Sky, is the skipper, the man who PDC should be counting on to rally the troops in the dressing room. If he’s sporting a gaping wound, that is a tall order.

In the same TV programme, one or two of the writers suggested that what may have worked once, exceptionally, just after PDC took over last season, is likely to backfire if it turns into a pattern. We’ve even seen one of the much-touted close-season acquisitions, Cabral, fall heavily from favour. The Independent suggested today that Di Canio has already lost the support of his players.

I am in favour, in general terms, of the PDC approach to discipline. Young men earning fabulous wages, more per week in many cases than the average fan collects in a year, have a huge responsibility to club and supporters. But encouraging them to observe and act on that responsibility requires intelligent, measured man-management. We are not seeing that, in all too many public utterances, from PDC. It is not going to turn what Jamie Redknapp today calls “powderpuff Sunderland” into world-beaters.

For all that. the doom can be put on hold. A couple of unexpected wins, home or away, would make all the difference. But they are all the more likely to happen if there are smiles on the faces of men pulling on the red and white stripes (or the unappealing yellow on travels).

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Monsieur Salut, Paris-style, by Matt
Monsieur Salut, Paris-style, by Matt

32 thoughts on “Paolo Di Canio versus the players, his own choices included”

  1. I’d like to see Roberge as O Shea is suspended, but at the same time would probably prefer Brown if he’s fit. A pairing of Roberge and Diakite would leave me a little uneasy becuase of their lack of PL experience. Diakite would be less mobile against a very quick and nimble Arsenal attack.

    Ki in with Cabral for me. I am bamboozled as to why Cabral has been left out when he appears to have done very well preseason and v Fulham.

    I hope Fletch and Altidore can play in the same team. I don’t see why not. But v Arsenal Borini may start since Altidore might not be 100% fit. Now, I think Fletch and Borini might make a good partnership.
    Dossena seems to be a last resort signing to provide backup for Colback who does OK there.

    Sorry, I can’t see Gardner, Larsson or Vaughn being effective in MF. They are simply bossed too easily. Larrson’s best pos is RW.

  2. Well hello I haven’t been on here for a while what a transfer window. We’ve had Joke-Innear running around Europe like an idiot and youve had your wild man manager buying anything from the basement bargain store. While I think the toon has had a bad window I would much rather have our squad (and manager) than yours. The Italian facist is proving to be a raving looney. I manage people in my job and am also a qualified football coach and what he is doing is no way to manager people.
    Going to be a long long long hard season for both clubs but I’ve put money on the toon finishing above you lot. I’m looking forward to the 1st derby and getting revenge for last season. Bye for now

  3. Can Fletcher and Altidore play in the same team? Hopefully we’ll find out against Arsenal. With Borini slotting in just behind we may have a goal threat. Roberge in for O’Shea and Ki replacing Larsson. Interesting that Bardsley appears to have made his peace with the club. I have a feeling that Cattermole may be brought back into the fold soon.

    • I doubt Bardsley will be allowed anywhere near a first team shirt.If I were manager I’d have him cleaning the dressing rooms.He’s yesterdays man.I note he has broken his foot…which stopped any chance of us getting rid.Now he’ll be on full pay till end of season.

      For posting that mocking tweet after the opening game that is not what I call justice.He is a prat… immature prat to boot.

      I’d say Catts is also history,PDC does not look like a man to go back on a decision,make him look indecisive…I stand to be corrected ; )

  4. So we sign Dossena who, according to reports won’t be fit for three or four weeks because of an injury – exactly the same reasons we were given to explain why Peruzzi wouldn’t be coming to Sunderland several weeks back.

    Transfer window panic? The three new signings would have got me interested at the start of July but now all I see is a player who can’t get into the Swansea side, ditto one at Liverpool and an injured fullback.

    I’m used to starting a season with optimism and having my hopes dashed but this year must be a record for the greatest hope and the quickest bout of pessimism.

    Still a good result against Arsenal and I could be back in the air. I still think Roberge looks a class act, his one costly slip up against Fulham notwithstanding and I’m still hoping the other new boys will come good. They won’t if they’re not in the team of course.

  5. I appreciate my fondness or MON puts me at odds with many people. I think your 6 year comment is a tad harsh. 3 top 6 finishes with Villa were within that time frame.

    The three crocs were major assets whereas Meyler and Campbell weren’t.

    Doesn’t matter really. What will be will be and neither you nor I can change it.

    As much as I’m anti PDC I’m pro SAFC. So I’ll sacrifice a goat, make an offering, chant a mantra…..whatever it takes to make our team of many nations to gel

    I’ll be delighted to be wrong……honest Guv

  6. Last season saw three key losses due to injury (Johnson, Cattermole and Fletcher) coupled with Sess not being arsed until the last 8 games of the season. MON was hamstrung by these events. His buys were ok. He was and still is a better man manager than PDC. Sorry if this causes apoplexy. Sess was frustrating throughout his time but undoubtedly had talent. Under PDC Sess leaving was only a matter of time….sadly it has coincided with Ming and Rose….both of whom performed well for us. PDC needs to reel his neck in and start delivering PDQ. Otherwise the dreaded bottom place at Christmas will be reserved for us

    • I have to disagree with you about MON. He may well have been an excellent man manager in his prime, but sadly for us we got him about six years too late. True, the loss of Fletcher, Johnson and Cattermole did not help his situation but why on earth did he sell Meyler and Campbell when he knew his squad was so paper thin?

      With regard to Ming and Rose, once we finished fourth from bottom we were never going to keep them They an do betterthan us.If we had finished in tenth place then maybe.

      Sess may come back to bite us in the backside but I think he is a luxury player who cannot be bothered when the going gets tough.

      I do however agree that PDC needs to shut up now, and put up and show us he is the potentially great manager he thinks he is.

  7. What I’m wondering at the moment is just what is going through Ellis Short’s mind! Here is a man who took over the club with Sir Niall as Chairman, decided (I assume) that he needed to be more in control and moved Quinny to a less hands on job, and to his eventually leaving the club altogether.

    Here is a man who decided that the whole club needed an overhaul (and many of us also took that line) who dismissed MON for a charismatic but unproven coach, with a structure in place where the playing squad is determined, not by the man in charge of on field decisions, but by a former agent and his assistants. There is no reason why that structure won’t work but surely even a multi-billionaire will look at the (as now) 13 players brought in over the summer, the cost of all of that and if results are not forthcoming the sense in staying in control of the club.

    I would not be surprised if we have a new owner before long, unless we have a rapid turnaround of results. I was excited pre-season because despite my reservations I wanted the revolution to succeed, but from what I’ve seen so far, the revolution consists of off loading some of last season’s squad and then picking a team based around the fringe players who couldn’t even get a game last year and we are worse, not better.

  8. I hope all our fears are eased by a 3 points victory in one of the next 3 games (unlikely I agree, but not beyond the Sunderland way).

    It is natural we are all in a state of utmost panic after losing to Palace.

    All I can do, is keep the faith and remind myself, even when we do poorly against weak opposition, we often excel against strong opposition.

    Not sure who, in the current set up will stand up to the plate.

  9. I thought too Di Canio would be a fire fighter, keep us up then move on.When it became obvious that the whole set up of the club was changing and Di Canio was central to it I gave it my whole support.I still do, I’m not fickle and neither are any other Sunderland fans I’ve met, we’re the opposite of fickle but honestly I’ve never felt such a sense of dread about a new season this early for a long, long time.It needs a spark and quick, I support the team and I generally support any manager untill he’s position becomes untenable,if this goes wrong, where does it leave us, it has to work.

  10. 4 points from the weekend –
    1) After scoring and until O’Sheas howler, I thought we were the only team that was going to win, so it could have been a much better weekend. However ….
    2) 11 players brought in and our first choice central 2 (not aware of any injuries) is Vaughan and Larsson. No offence to either of them who work really hard and are decent players when working with others, but that pair will not get the ball to our front players quickly enough to threaten any decent side.
    3) Anyone finishing below Palace will be relegated. They are poor and, at times, passed us off the pitch.
    4) Someone needs to look at our coaching and very quickly. If PDC isn’t then Ellis Short better had. What have they been doing since the Fulham game to sort out the defending of set pieces, other than blaming Roberge and dropping him? We could have let 4 in at Southampton from set pieces and let one in on Saturday by allowing a ball to bounce in teh 6 yard area. Not even a schoolboy team would get away with that.

    Given the home games we have coming up and that Sess is bound to score at least 1 against us (which will be enough unless we get a bit more creative), I am worried that we could easily get into double figures of games before we get a win and we are not likely to recover from that.
    Really hope I am wrong but it does not look good at all. As others have said though, a battling performance and a home win would soon cheer everyone up.

  11. SInce PDC’s appointment I have wavered from no not him !, to OK ,well maybe he can , to he’s the Man!
    Now I am back to no not him!

    My initial reaction to his arrival was that he had been brought in short term to keep us up, and if he did, be given a pat on the back and a decent wedge for a job well done and moved on. Mind you I had no idea who we would replace him with and still don’t . To be honest there’s not a lot of managerial talent out there available to us to get excited about

    I hope I am wrong but I have a feeling in my waters just as I did with MON that this is probably not going to work out for PDC and he’ll be gone by Xmas. I think the task of turning the pigs ear left by both Bruce and then MON into the proverbial silk purse is just too big for him and probably too big for most managers.

  12. I don’t like Ji at all but would never lower myself to boo a player,when will some of our supporters learn this brings shame on our club?.I agree we should let the manager take the blame…though no booing.

    As to Rednapp’s “powderpuff”comment,I recall Steve Bruce saying much the same thing when he came here.He said we were regarded as an easy pushover,and he was about to stop that.

    Funnily enough after the Fulham opening crash against Fulham I was putting away my match programme and I pulled out an old programme from Bruces’ reign.Sept 21st 2010 vs West Ham( Carling cup match which we lost 1-2),the previous game was funnily enough against Arsenal which resulted in a 1-1draw.The team was as below

    Onouha Bramble Ferdinand Richardson

    Henderson Riveros Malbranque

    El Mohamady Bent Welbeck

    Looking at the results that season we had an opening home draw with Birmingham,an away loss to WBA,a win against Colchester in the Carling cup,a home win over Man City and away draw at Wigan before the Arsenal game.We sat in 11th with 6 points.

    Have we progressed?……..I think not.

    • 2 steps forward. 3 steps back, it always seems to happen. Nice assist for Jack Colback, for me, he is a vital cog in the SAFC machine, I also like Cattermole (and understand that not everyone does).

      I note, our best results of the last 2 seasons seem to be when Cattermole is fit and playing.

  13. Well I have always considered myself to be a realist and the comments above regarding PDC style of management, married with his predilection for blaming everyone else is of real concern,

    He has on numerous occasions this season already claimed that he was happy with the performance so he and Davey are obviously watching different games to me (claims of Diakite being ‘immense’ is just plain nonsense) we have in all reality been poor in all four of the games so far this season and PDC really needs to reflect on the team selection, tactics, formation and where for the love of god is the creative midfielder that we have been missing for at least the last four seasons?

    Rumours emanating from the dressing room are suggesting that PDC has incredibly managed to alienate the entire squad in just four games.

    Realistically we are going to get shafted this season if something doesn’t change. I don’t mean replace the manager, but the manager had better stop talking a good game and start to produce it on the field where it matters because we are getting sucked in to the relegation mire after just four games.

  14. “It would be typical of Sunderland to get no more than a point from Fulham (h) and Southampton and Palace (a) before shocking us out of our trepidation by sneaking wins at home to Arsenal and Liverpool”
    Correction : it would be typical of Sunderland to get no more than a point from Fulham (h) and Southampton and Palace (a) before flattering to deceive by holding Arsenal and Liverpool to late-goal 0-1 defeats. Sandwiched in between, of course, is WBA 2 (Sessignon 2) Sunderland 0 on 21 September.
    15 points looks like an impossible dream.

  15. It’s about leadership. There are many different styles (with names if I remember rightly from my pre-interview time) and PDC sees himself as an inspirational leader modelled on his declared role model, Mussolini. I think I accept that he isn’t a fascist but rather, an admirer and copier of Mussolini’s style.
    This extreme style of dictatorship tends to unravel as it did with Mussolini who (based on very limited research some time ago) seemed to start out with good intentions to help the poor and vulnerable of Italy and then sort of got a bit carried away, to put it mildly.
    My glass went from half full to half empty at speed last Saturday. An example: I was astonished at Ji’s ‘soft kid in a Games lesson’ impersonation only to feel sorry for him at the resulting public humiliation. Not really motivational for him or anyone else.
    It was a dire performance all round and PDC seems to want to shift the blame to the players.
    He assembled them, taught them exactly how he wants the game played, selected their formation and determined the tactics. One aspect of the game that can be drilled during the week is set pieces, not so good so far.
    When it goes wrong, therefore, he should be accepting the blame and not displacing it, especially via the media.
    Listen to phrases such as ‘my palyers’ ofetn repeated in many of his often rambling media responses.
    I mentioned after the Fulham game how not one single player made eye contact with him after the game. I wasn’t comfortable with that, particularly when compared with the physical hugging contact the Fulham striker (Kassam?) had with Jol after scoring.
    I may be wrong. It is always good to hear voices condemning those asking for him to be sacked – and I agree with them. But he really does need to examine his leadership style because it will end in tears and sadly, they will be ours.
    Somewhere in Sunderland, a lamp post is being polished up in readiness for the fall of the dictator.
    However, a performance and points off Arsenal…………

    • Geoff, I’m thinking along similar lines. I was very surprised when he was appointed, but accepted that something different from Bruce and O’Neill was needed.
      I was reasonably heartened with his initial impact, and feel that he probably kept us in the PL..

      Recent events however make me deeply pessimistic. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the players that he has bought in are any better than Bruce/O’Neill’s lot [ and they were poor ] and, based on early indications, his man management is appalling.

      Good managers [ in any sphere ] do not disparage their staff in public. They also understand the concept of accountability. I think he lacks the humility to examine his management style, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has already lost the dressing room.

      His treatment of Ji [ a player he allegedly turned down £4m for a week ago ] was disgraceful, and his skipper, one of the most experienced footballers in the country, will not have been impressed either.

      I hope this situation is not as bad as I think it is, and above all, I hope Mr Short is watchiing closely. I thought our closest rivals were supposed to be the laughing stock?

      • I think publicly knocking players is an Italian thing, not unusual for the big managers over there to do it.

        Doesn’t sit right with players here though (and rightly so), just look what happened with Mancini!

  16. I hope some hard questions will be asked over Sessegnon. Has Di Canio secretly always wanted rid or is it all down to his drink driving offence?

    • I won’t shed any tears if SS leaves. I think he is an expensive luxury, and if we can get a decent fee for him, I’d jump at it.

      • Selling him to a rival club at the last minute can’t be viewed as good business though WC?

        Sess could be a luxury but he didn’t have to play in the hole. He could have played on the right, where he played quite well last season, with Giaccherini in the middle.

        It also looks now like we have little choice but to play 4-4-2, and with midfield options now that looks pretty frightening. Letting N’Diaye was surely a mistake too.

  17. Spot on, Tom. I know clubs make objective no-holds barred questioning a delicate area, but the journalists should remember that even if the answers are inadequate, questions can still be posed and reported, often quite strikingly.

  18. Note: Not one journalist has had the guts to ask what the situation is with Cabral [excellent in Hong Kong and promising against Fulham-dodgy v MK Dons as most of them were]. Why? What is the point of them being journalists if they will not ask such simple but pertinent questions?

    • If you ask a question they don’t like then you’ll be carted from the press conference, unfortunately. Ask Mr. Goldsmith about that!

      • Which, Gareth, therefore renders them pretty pointless! It would be a fair question and the type that journo’s in PDC’s Italian homeland, for example, would most certainly ask.
        I am fully aware that Premier League clubs try to control the media via their respective PR set-ups and I understand if they want to control any excessive, unfair attention-grabbing journo’s, but not to be able to ask a question of this nature is frankly ridiculous.
        Cabral has pedigree including Championd League outings and reaching the semi final of last seasons Europa Cup and a lot of effort was put into signing him
        [I remember De Fanti saying on that he had a meal with him in a restaurant abroad and emphasised that he would not leave until he had agreed to sign for SAFC due to interest from major German clubs].
        The print and spoken media have phenomenal competition these days from the immediacy of social media where, in football’s case, fans discuss things amongst themselves. Journalists hold a privileged position when meeting the likes of PDC and owe it to the supporters to ask the questions they really want answers to. Easy to say, you may be thinking, but the people who contribute towards Cabral’s wages in this example surely deserve a sembalnce of respect by hearing answers to reasonable, rational questions.

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