Captain's Blog: Di Canio Right To Give Players Public Short Shrift

Stu Forster

Paolo Di Canio has delivered a savage indictment of the professionalism of the Sunderland players who have wasted and abused Ellis Short's backing. I, for one, couldn't be happier about it.

That didn't take long. Seven games is all it took for Paolo Di Canio's patience with the Sunderland squad to break and for him to lift the lid on the apparent mess he has inherited at the Stadium of Light.

The Italian's verdict is a damning one. Since arriving at the club he has discovered problems within the squad on a 'day by day' basis, some of which 'disgusts' him, and the environment at Premier League Sunderland is less 'disciplined' and players more 'ignorant' than the ones he encountered in the lower leagues with Swindon Town.

It surprises no one. Not really. I mean, sure, we didn't know the true extent of the problems but it has been clear for some time that something was badly rotten within the squad.

There are those who question the wisdom of Di Canio's decision to deal with this publicly in such brutal fashion. It certainly can be described as the 'management by hand grenade' that former Swindon chief Jeremy Wray warned us about. To some it is seen as a needlessly high-risk strategy that could alienate players and cause a dressing room revolt.

To those people, I ask one question: what do the club actually have to lose here? Really consider it.

Is the goodwill and contentment of Phil Bardsley and his drinking buddies really a pivotal factor in a glorious Sunderland AFC future? The preservation of his footballing talents at the club certainly are not.

Is the rampant indiscipline and lack of professionalism that has been evident in the performances and physical condition of the squad all season really deserving of no more than a quiet and resistible challenge to be swatted away and beaten down within the sanctity of the Academy of Light's walls?

Are the players who have blighted our spirit really worthy of further protection and yet another chance at the club to do it again?

We can dress it up all we like amidst clichés of player power and pages from a David Brent management manual about the importance of a pampered work force, but if you think Di Canio is playing a high-stakes game here then you have grossly over-estimated the club's current position.

The fact of the matter is that right now Sunderland have nothing left to lose. The club is on a collision course with oblivion with the squad its cindering hull. The end of the season may have delayed that collision, but no amount of fire-fighting or patching up will alter the trajectory.

Neither will a pretence of possessing some semblance of pride and dignity. They were jettisoned months ago and replaced with sheer desperation and hollow prayer.

Why pander to the people - the players - who have done this to the club? It would be wrong to tar the entire squad with the same brush, but we all know the main culprits.

They are the ones who have got two highly protective managers the sack. The ones who have plodded their way around a football pitch, taking home a seven-figure salary from the club whilst failing to show it any kind of respect at all. The ones who have slapped the faces of the fans who have spent literally thousands following them and supporting them.

Granted, we can't profess to be in a position to judge every individual. But we can say with certainty that Titus Bramble has failed to keep himself in an anywhere near acceptable physical condition for an even moderately dedicated professional athlete.

We can say with certainty that Kadar Mangane has stolen a living from the club if he has been unable to challenge the incumbents of this team. We can say that Matthew Kilgallon has been happier counting the numbers on his Premier League pay-cheque than counting his appearances at Championship level.

Having seen the difference a commitment to his fitness made upon Phil Bardsley's game a couple of years ago, questions can fairly be asked of why he has not seen fit to adopt it as his norm and bare minimum requirement, and serious questions must be asked about Lee Cattermole's injury record too.

Are these the players we should be worried about Di Canio upsetting? The ones who have got us into the mess with their sheer disregard for the club? The rotten core that infects the rest?

You only need to take one look at Danny Rose's general demeanour and contribution to see how far Sunderland are behind the rest in terms of basic professionalism. He has quality, of course, but also the conditioning, both mental and physical, of a professional.

Even if we were fortunate enough to see Rose join on a permanent deal this summer, how long before that rotten core would infect him or the likes of Alfred N'Diaye and drag them down to their level. How many more of Ellis Short's millions in the transfer market would that see flushed down the toilet?

I would agree wholeheartedly that in a perfect world you don't want to see your manager air the club's dirty laundry in public. The world that Sunderland have found themselves in is not perfect though. It is a bleak and desperate place where only desperate measures will ensure survival.

I think Di Canio is switched-on enough to know that. I think he knows that the only possible way forward is to cut out that core and rebuild it to higher and more modern specifications. Obviously the extent to which he can achieve it will depend largely on the level of backing he receives from Short, but one way or another its influence will be removed over the summer.

The players have had enough protection. They have been allowed their unity and freedom and none of it has produced results. Why go through the motions again? Just so that we can be sat here in a year's time, Short having spent millions more, fans having spent thousands more, continuing to lose games, and no one any happier except the players as they lie on a Casino floor in the early hours of the morning drunk and covered in cash?

We simply don't need players who refuse to embrace the standards of professionalism that the club both demands and deserves. They are surplus to requirements and unfit for purpose - quite literally some of them - and have had more than enough chances to be part of the solution.

After all, what is the worst that can happen here? They take offence to Di Canio's comments and start moaning, and whining, and refusing to train properly or put the club first. They might even go on strike. Well, I'm not all that sure how we'd notice the difference.

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