From The Durham Times: Dressing Room Woes Could End Up A Positive

Scott Heavey

Every week we lend our views to The Durham Times. A tip-top local newspaper which you should buy each and every Friday for just 50p. Go on, you know you want to. Or alternatively read our out-of-date version here. Please buy it though in the future.

And so we're finally safe from the drop.

It would be wrong to say that any of this - our form and league position -- was unfortunate though in a season of unmitigated disaster.

We came in with such high hopes for the season. There those - myself included - who firmly believed that having had the whole summer to sort things out, Martin O'Neill would get things right this season and the top ten was a very distinct possibility.

However a few bad results in and everything changed. O'Neill, famous for his man-motivating skills couldn't inspire a team devoid of inspiration, class, guile and ruthlessness. It's sad that only now, having had to rely on Arsenal to do us a massive favour in beating FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic, are we seeing the full fall out of what has been going wrong.

With Ellis Short a quiet man, a loud-mouthed manager was appointed in the form of Paolo Di Canio. Never slow to give his opinions to the world, he's been bringing forth information in the last week or so which is not only soul-crushing to hear as a supporter but also incredibly worrying and disappointing.

The comments made about Connor Wickham, a prodigious talent but ultimately all too often injured, at first raised a few chuckles when Di Canio suggested the striker needed a slap. But when you delve into it it's quite worrying that he's more concerned with his looks than playing a game he should love. Perhaps this was the sort of behaviour that was tolerated under the soft O'Neill or the pally Steve Bruce.

There's also the stories now of cliques within the dressing room, something which has been notorious at other clubs and never something you imagine will happen to yours. It's very worrying.

On top of that there's players unwilling to walk that extra 5-yards to sign some autographs for fans at the request of the club. Rightfully they've been fined by Di Canio.

It seems like we're falling apart, but perhaps it's the best thing that could happen to us in order to simply start again.

Di Canio is a man who won't take or tolerate any rubbish or nonsense. He's already threatened to cut short the summer for players who under-perform against Spurs this weekend. A stark contrast to Martin O'Neill who took the players for a jolly to Dubai after an embarrassing FA Cup defeat to Bolton Wanderers.

It also seems as though he's ready to make his mind up on some of the dross that has fallen his way and is ready for a summer revolution on Wearside as he builds a team in his own image.

As said, this is exactly what we need.

Some will point to the fact it's much like Roy Keane was in his early days but Di Canio seems a little more switched on from a managerial and tactical standpoint than the Irishman. It's clear what Di Canio wants to do, but doesn't have the players to make it work at the moment.

With many of these players under-performing or simply not good enough, the fact the dressing room seems to have fallen apart seems to be the perfect excuse to finally peddle some of them. And let's be honest here, how many of them would we really actually miss.

You can point to about 6 players who simply must be kept - Simon Mignolet, Steven Fletcher, Stephane Sessegnon, John O'Shea, Adam Johnson and Lee Cattermole. If the rest left, not a single Sunderland fan would really bat an eyelid.

Obviously not everyone will leave the club but certainly a high percentage will, which should be very interesting to keep a track of this summer.

Everything is there now for Di Canio to build a new team, to lead a revolution, to be able to create a team of passionate players with the talent to succeed in red and white and give the loyal fan-base something to shout about at last... because I can't take watching Arsenal versus Wigan Athletic though my fingers for season upon season anymore!

SIMON WALSH.

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