From The Durham Times: Di Canio Can Be Our Saviour

Stu Forster

Every week we've been allowed to provide some thought to The Durham Times newspaper. Please for the love of God go and buy a copy on a Friday. It's only 50p for Pete's sake. Until then, here's an out of date version of that column.

Sunderland's first win on Tyneside in thirteen years turned out to be well worth the wait as Di Canio's side put on a performance for their fans to savour. It was also the Black Cats biggest win at St. James' in over three decades - the stats continuing the back up what a momentous achievement the derby demolition was for the Sunderland boss and his troops.

Hollywood's finest couldn't have staged a more perfect scene than for the fledgling Sunderland gaffer to introduce himself to the Stadium of Light faithful for the first time than coming off the back of such an incredible performance.

Name all the superlatives you can muster and they would all be appropriate when describing, man for man, the Sunderland squad's display at the weekend.

For a change it was the Magpies that were left to look like rabbits caught in the headlights on derby day, something Sunderland fans have been accustomed in the past, as Di Canio's men ran riot with a performance oozing confidence and swagger, guile and creativity, guts and desire... I could go on all day.

What is all the more impressive is that the result does not seem to simply have the hallmarks of the new Sunderland boss enjoying the traditional honeymoon period that often boosts performances and in turn results when such a change at a club is made. This is different. This looks like Di Canio's team.

The players have bought into the new gaffer's philosophy of hard work and preparation on the training ground and are reaping the rewards both individually and most importantly as a group.

Take Stephane Sessegnon for example, an undoubtedly talented footballer and quite possibly the most gifted on Sunderland's books but also one of the most frustrating. Since the Benin man's arrival neither Steve Bruce nor Martin O'Neill were able to decipher where the little man best fit into their starting eleven. Di Canio on the other hand has Sessegnon sussed and has simplified his game to its most devastating best.

The same can be said for Adam Johnson, another who has disappointed since his arrival to great fanfare. While O'Neill deployed the winger on either flank, often countless times during the course of a single game, Di Canio has utilised the old Football Manager favourite of "inside forward" and the wide man has looked more like the man we spent £10m on than he ever has before.

It even took Di Canio only a couple of weeks to work out that the best place for Titus Bramble was to be nowhere near the first team squad - apparently enjoying a night out in Leeds on the eve of the derby if you believe the social media rumours that spread like wildfire.

Having commanded more column inches than any Sunderland manager in recent memory it is finally PDC's ability as a manager that is now being discussed as opposed to any political beliefs. In one dramatic and passionate knee-slide across the turf of St. James' a line was finally drawn under the hysteria that greeted his arrival and football is once again top of the agenda.

While these are of course incredibly early days in the Di Canio regime the initial impressions couldn't be more positive. Despite coming under incredible scrutiny the fiery Italian commanded himself expertly in front of the baying media, has turned the club on its head with his hands-on approach to training and has somehow managed to craft an attacking side out of this squad in next to no time.

Tomorrow's fixture brings with it a different challenge for the young manager who will have to carefully manage a squad that will no doubt have returned to training on Monday morning on cloud nine. Bringing the group back down to earth to focus and prepare for an Everton side that have been in impressive form of late, earning a hard-fought point at the Emirates on Tuesday night and are chasing a top four finish will be vital as Sunderland are not out of the relegation battle by any stretch of the imagination just yet.

With five games to go, including what could yet be vital back-to-back home games against Stoke and Southampton in May, you just get the feeling Di Canio can pull this off.

DAVID BOYLE

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