PAOLO Di Canio hailed Sunderland’s stunning Tyne-Wear derby win as the greatest moment of his managerial career and dedicated it to the memory of his departed mother Pierina – whom he had seen in a vision before kick-off.
Di Canio ended 13 years of black-and-white dominance at St James’ Park with the Black Cats’ biggest derby win since 1979 and it was thoroughly deserved for a team that have reclaimed momentum in the relegation battle.
A first-half goal from Stéphane Sessègnon was followed by sublime strikes from Adam Johnson and substitute David Vaughan to give Di Canio the perfect derby debut – and the greatest moment of his coaching career.
He confirmed: “It is the best moment of my managerial career. I can’t forget I was manager at Swindon.
“It was my starter. I won many important games, especially in the cup, but this is an important moment in the club’s history. The Premier League is the top league, this is why I want to stop in England. I love the people, I love the league, the atmosphere and the fans and (now) you win one of the hottest derbies in the world.
“It is difficult to find two cities so close at the top level, and they fight for their kingdom.
“We won three-nil, away from home, we won three points and get a clean sheet, so it’s a fantastic moment.
“As a single game, it is the most important game for me. But it is nothing if we don’t stay up.” Di Canio celebrated wildly after all three goals but made sure that at the end of the match he transferred the glory onto his players. He said afterwards that he wants the supporters to sing the names of his Sunderland stars rather than the man who leads them.
He said: “I don’t want to be a fake, humble person. I understand why they sing the manager’s name, but they have to sing the players’ names. It was about the group.
“My players gave everything. My players were warriors today. They were heroes, they did a fantastic job.”
He revealed afterwards that he had seen a vision of his mother, who passed away a year ago, in the run-up to the game. It inspired Di Canio.
“Before the kick-off I saw the face of my mother smiling,” he said.
“Exactly yesterday is one year since she passed away. It is not an accident.
“I believe in this energy. My dedication goes to my Mama.
“You may think maybe he’s mad. I believe we suffered, we went through some difficult moments. Today we showed we gave a fantastic performance to our fans something special to ourself.”
The victory was well timed for Sunderland, who can now gather themselves for the run-in with a bit of breathing space between themselves and the bottom three.
It also went some way to repaying the Black Cats board after a difficult fortnight that has seen them criticised in some quarters for the appointment of Di Canio (pictured above), who has already prompted a change in fortune.
Explaining the way he turned to the stands to celebrate the win, he said: “I was looking to my fans. There was no provocation there,” he said.
“When I turned around it was for the board. I don’t feel the pressure. I feel a very high responsibility for this club. I have to deliver the best job as a professional to make them proud, to let them understand they made the best decision.”
Now Di Canio’s challenge is to harness that momentum for next weekend’s game against Everton and beyond. “For sure, we have to stay up, and this game has to remain in this club’s history,” he said.