PAOLO Di Canio will urge Sunderland to find him more players like John O’Shea this summer.
The Italian has been very vocal about the Black Cats players who do not meet his high standards of professionalism.
But it is not a one-way street, with Di Canio happy to hold O’Shea up as an example other members of his squad should aspire to.
With Lee Cattermole injured, O’Shea has been wearing the captain’s armband throughout Di Canio’s time as manager. But it is off the field where the Republic of Ireland international has most impressed his new manager.
“I didn’t have any doubt about him,” said Di Canio of the 32-year-old.
“In a natural way in the morning he’s first out for the warm-up and he’s always top of the group, always trying to encourage others, which is important, always on his toes.
“Sometimes when I talk about tactical situations I see the young players just shut their mouths and look to the sky. John O’Shea always listens.
“You can be the best manager you can but if you have one or two players – I don’t say 11 – that deliver the same message it’s crucial, because the others are maybe going to forget.
“He’s positive and intelligent.”
Di Canio will not be in charge of Sunderland’s recruitment policy this summer. The restructuring which followed Martin O’Neill’s sacking saw him given the job title of “head coach” rather than manager.
The job of identifying and signing players will fall to a director of football, which is set to be Roberto De Fanti.
Di Canio explained the working relationship which he has been promised.
“I have said to them we need this type of player, this type of quality, in this position or that position,” he said. “So show me the players we can go and get and I will tell them ‘Yes, this player is okay’, or ‘No, this player is not’.”
De Fanti cannot take up the role while he is still a Fifa-licensed agent, which is thought to be holding up the move. When he does take over he will be well advised to consider the character of his recruits as a top priority.
Former Lazio, West Ham United and Celtic striker Di Canio has been outspoken in his criticism of the attitudes of certain players, and so hardline in his dishing out of fines, particularly since saving the club from relegation, the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, have looked into the matter.
Clearly the habits Di Canio (below) wants from his players need to be ingrained at an early age. O’Shea came through the ranks at Old Trafford – although in fairness, so did defender Phil Bardsley, who attracted his manager’s ire for being photographed lying on the floor of a casino late at night covered in £50 notes.
“It’s easy for a few of them (Sunderland players, to be as professional as Di Canio would like), but for the others it is still difficult,” he commented. “It is very heavy for some of them.
“For me it is normal, for John O’Shea it is normal because he comes from an environment where the people used to throw boots in people’s face and the player would say, ‘Thanks, the best manager in the world, thanks Sir Alex (Ferguson),’ if they did something wrong.”
One of the players Di Canio would like to sign is Danny Rose, but Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas is yet to decide if he should sell the left-back.
The Doncaster-born England Under-21 international was on loan at the Stadium of Light, and was Sunderland’s best outfield player.
It has highlighted his value to a number of Premier League clubs, including Spurs themselves.
“He has had a great season in Sunderland,” said Villas-Boas. “We are aware of it.
“He’s a player we have to consider.”