Paolo Di Canio will not be apologising for criticising his Sunderland players in public – and says both they and his critics will have to get used to it this season.
Di Canio was astonished at the reaction to his criticism of John O’Shea and said he had not apologised to the defender.
Instead he says he will continue to be a “strong leader” in the Sunderland dressing room – because if the players gain control then the club is “finished”.
Reading from the management blueprint Sir Alex Ferguson devised for Harvard University, he said that he should never cede control to his players and that “egos need a stick”.
He also said that his dressing room has strong enough characters to absorb the lessons he is trying to teach. “I did it at Swindon as well and we won the League, we won at Wembley,” he said.
“It’s strange this criticism only happens to Paolo Di Canio. I heard many interviews last year with managers: Harry Redknapp did many interviews and no-one asked why he said his team was playing rubbish and sh** football. No-one comments. Why is it only Paolo Di Canio? I want to ask why? What was wrong with it in your opinion? I saw something a few days ago saying that I phoned John O’Shea to apologise. It never happened. It is not because I wanted to feel big because I pulled up John O’Shea.
“The thing you don’t understand is that my relationship with my players is closer than you think. It means that for me I can point the finger straight away and say ‘For your level, it is rubbish but it can happen’.
“But John, it was the second time – it doesn’t change my opinion of the player though. He is my captain, my leader. I would have had him, even at Manchester United.”
“The day after the mistake I called him for one reason – and this is the relationship I have with my players. He was sad, not for my comment but for the mistake he made.
“He had two very important games with his national team that were crucial. I phoned him to support him. Johnno, how do you feel today?
“He said, ‘I have had better days, gaffer’. I said, ‘Don’t be mad, it can happen. Even though it was rubbish!’ We had a funny, you know? Then I said ‘Forget it, you have two very important games and you care about your nation.
“You’re a top footballer, you’re crucial for them. I’m looking forward to seeing you win two games and when you come back, positive more than ever.’”
Di Canio acknowledges that he is hard on his players but thinks that is it fair.
“Egos need a stick! (Sir Alex) Ferguson said that. ‘Egos need a stick’. They need a slap. Because they feel more protected. If 11 egos have a very weak manager they do what they want.
“If you have that you sink and sink and sink.”
Di Canio – who revealed he turned down a loan move for Lee Cattermole because he intends to re-integrate the midfielder into the squad – said that the club have to back their manager always.
“You upset people in this environment. They have to become stronger,” he said.
“The club have to back their manager. Players should not have the power.”