What The Gaffer Said
Paolo Di Canio was understandably pleased with what he saw in the opening game of the Asia Trophy, but also insists that no one will be getting carried away.
Whenever you win, it’s good, but the way the victory came was even more important.
We’ve rebuilt the team so this kind of game can help us to understand that if we keep working hard, we are going to improve a lot.
Then we are going to have a lot of satisfaction during the season.
After we went 1-0 down, it was a very good effort, not only the starting XI, but the other players who got a few minutes in the second half.
I’m very happy. We’ve not done anything yet, but we’ll wait for the final.
He isn't the kind of character who ever needs an actual excuse to be smug, but Di Canio has every right to be pleased with this one. It was about as far removed from a typical Sunderland performance as you can get.
It was organised, bright, methodical, and reasonably rich in quality. He is right to stress that it is only one game, and we'd like to reiterate that point, but it was like watching an entirely new team compared to the one we saw last season despite there being just four new faces in the starting line-up.
Without question the most noticeable difference was in the fitness of the players. The whole fitness thing has become a little cliched in football, especially with newly appointed managers eager to buy themselves time, so it can be tough to know where the excuses end and the reality begins.
But this game - the first public appearance of Sunderland's pre-season - proved that there is substantial substance behind Paolo Di Canio's obsession with fitness.
Even the players we didn't know were especially unfit such as Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner looked incredibly lean and strong, whilst the likes of Adam Johnson and Jack Colback had a real fresh spring in their steps.
Big, Bad, And BACK!
One big benefit of the new fitness regime, perhaps even the biggest, is the return of Wes Brown. You get the feeling that absolutely nothing less would have got the former Manchester United defender back playing,
We would be well advised not to count our chickens with regard his ability to stay injury-free, but you also feel that if anyone has a cat in hell's chance of keeping him in fighting shape then it is Di Canio and his coaches.
Di Canio revealed to The Sunderland Echo after the game that Brown was actually offered a settlement this summer by the club, but insisted upon proving himself:
I have to be honest and say that with a team I wanted to rebuild, I thought at the beginning that he was not on my list for the future.
After one year and two months out, at his age, I couldn’t start thinking about a player who I didn’t know if I could rely on.
I spoke to him and was clear that he wasn’t on the list.
But I’m very happy to tell him now that he’s completely on my list.
He has got experience, quality, desire and he can help the others.
The club had a conservation with him, but with his strong character, he said ‘I feel a footballer, I want to stay here and prove it’.
He is the perfect professional to have in a squad and what a player, he hasn’t stopped for one minute in a training session.
My pre-season is very tough, but he hasn’t had any problems.
He’s got to keep pushing to improve his strength to support his knee.
But I hope he keeps going and he deserved man of the match yesterday.
For my money, there are very few better defenders around than a fully fit Wes Brown. Di Canio credited himself with 'a miracle' in keeping Sunderland up last season. If he can pull the Wes Brown of old out of his hat too he will have performed another.
The New Lads
It was one of those games where everyone played their part, but extra scrutiny naturally falls upon the new faces in the side.
Cabral obviously caught the eye with his goal though I thought his pressing and general play were just as impressive, particularly a long pass to release Sessegnon that was so delicious it belonged on a desert trolley.
Emmanule Giaccherini impressed in spells and at times had shades of Steed Malbranque as he protected the ball with close control and shuffled around the pitch like a soldier.
Jozy Altidore has come in for some criticism for missing a good chance, but he led the line with aplomb offering both a target to aim for as well as a threat in behind. The American also engineered a half chance for himself in the box and forced a top save out of Brad Friedel. All in all a very encouraging performance.
Vito Mannone has probably been the least heralded of the new arrivals but produced two big saves with the scores level. The younger players, David Moberg Karlsson and El-Hadji Ba, had a really positive impact too, especially the former with his assist and goal.
Generally speaking, there wasn't a single negative on show. I am sure that won't last forever, but we'd might as well enjoy it whilst we can.
My lasting impression of the game itself was the fact that it could be the start of new trends for Sunderland.
We won a game from behind, really attacked a very good side, got stronger as the game went on rather than weaker, and even beat the first man from corners.
If Di Canio really is adamant that he wants to 'change everything' that he found at the club, then he couldn't really have had a better debut for his new Sunderland side.