The Black Cats have lost two of their three games in the Premier League season and Di Canio feels that communication between his league of nations newcomers and existing members of the squad has played a part in their downfall. It is driving him “crazy”, and led to him halting training on Thursday to hammer home the message to his new players.
Now the Italian has given his new arrivals a list of five words to learn – including “squeeze up”, “drop” and “hold” – and has also told his English-speaking players that they must take more responsibility for the new arrivals.
“When we gel together more and speak more English then we are going to be OK,” Di Canio said.
“We have made a few mistakes that most of the time came from not communicating. It was a problem that we knew before (the summer) because with 14 (new) players and 11 or 12 foreigners it can be a problem. They are shy and not sure about talking English because the others might make fun of their pronunciation. We need to improve on this because this can be the biggest problem.
“I am spending time on it in every training session. Even on Thursday I stopped the session for five minutes.
“Every training session you can see that everything is going OK when we practise, but then there was misunderstanding: a British player says you squeeze up, and the French or the Italian can’t understand. I stop the training session. I don’t say the word I used. I told the Italians, French, the Ukrainian that we speak English because we are in England. But on the other side the British players need to help them. They need to learn five key words that are there for the back four: squeeze up, drop, hold.
“Every day that it is like this if they say a word in a foreign language I will stop the training session. Even if they only learn ‘up’ and forget ‘squeeze up’ it is better. Just say ‘up.’
“You have to fight with these things every day.”
With a glint in his eye, Di Canio admitted that it was causing him untold frustration.
“After two months I am talking about this! It is driving me crazy,” he said.
“I have had training sessions for two months, still I see players getting confused. One day when I go back to Italy I will speak in Italian. But we are in England. Speak in English. Even if it’s rubbish like my English.
“At the same time I know it’s difficult, everyone wants the right thing. If players are shy I say (to the others), ‘Get close to them’. Rather than talking about only women or cars talk to them about other things and then when we practise if we are on the back foot and someone says squeeze up they say ‘Ah OK, I understand’.”
Di Canio’s problems might have been solved if he’d signed more English-speaking players but he revealed that the market did not allow it. He spoke of trying to sign one midfielder from a relegated club – presumably James McCarthy (below) of Wigan – but being quoted £11million.
“This is why I ask also for more British players, but it didn’t happen for some reason,” he said.
“I don’t point my finger at anyone. I know it was impossible. We asked for one player from a relegated team but were told £11million. £11million?
“He is a normal player. A good British player but £11m is not possible. In midfield £11m? He’s not a top-class footballer. But this can be a problem. Everyone has to understand we have to be responsible.”