PAOLO Di Canio has ear-marked a major role for “pit bull” Jack Colback in his Sunderland revolution – and has told the club’s Cleadon Academy he wants them to produce more players like him in the future.
Di Canio wants to oversee a red and white revolution this summer, changing everything from the player’s mentalities to the way the club doles out days off and their summer recruitment strategy.
Having secured Premier League safety with a game to go the Italian can turn his eye to the bigger red and white picture – switching his focus from the short-term goal of staving off a disastrous relegation to the longer term aim of building a club that is capable of sustaining a top-ten place every season while also challenging for meaningful silverware.
Di Canio has seen plenty of room for improvement but one area of the club that has impressed him is the club’s Cleadon Academy which – in England international Jordan Henderson and Colback – has produced two bona fide first- team regulars in the last four years.
Hailing him as a “pit bull” who has been the club’s “best player” in crucial home matches against Stoke and Southampton, Di Canio envisages a bright future for the midfielder.
“Jack is ready. You can see he is like a pit bull on the field,” he said of Colback.
“He has qualities, he can cover different positions on the field and he is a versatile player. I am not surprised, I am very happy because he was the best in the last two games he played in my opinion – for the way he interpreted the situation and the way he went through a situation the way I told him to.
“He was fantastic. He has to improve a lot, but he is intelligent. Let us think about the future positively and make sure there is a good link between the youth and the first team. We have to be more close.”
Having been impressed with the facilities and staff he has encountered, Di Canio wants more of the same in the coming years from the club’s impressive youth set-up.
“Already in the last few weeks we have had one eye on the Academy,” Di Canio said.
“This is a club that can spend the money to bring players but in a big geographic area like Sunderland we have to bring up some players like Jack Colback that can feed the first team.
“I don't want to put a number on it. But we have to make sure we are working well and I think already the coaches, the academy and the scouts, have done a good job.”
It will be a summer of change in the Academy with a new influx of players set to join in the close season along with wider recruitment. One name in the frame is El-Hadji Ba, the French-born Le Havre youngster who is out-of-contract in the summer.
Di Canio says that whoever joins, the club must make sure they come into a professional environment.
“We know that some players will join us – some young players in the summer,” he said.
“We have to make sure we deliver the right things for them so that they are ready to step into the first team. You have seen already that some players have joined us (in the first team) and others will probably come to the bench as we are very short. We don't want to change too much in the Academy. What we've seen of it is that it is a good academy with good people, good professionals and we can keep going.”