PAOLO Di Canio did not smile when Wigan’s Emirates collapse confirmed Sunderland’s Premier League survival.
To understand the nature of the Black Cats boss, you have to understand that he will never be satisfied by relying on others to do his job for him. There was satisfaction, perhaps, but no wild celebrations as he burned the midnight oil in his office at the club’s Cleadon training ground.
In fact, it took a delighted phone call from owner Ellis Short to finally persuade Di Canio to break his stony demeanour and crack a smile. You see, Short’s late-night phone call included a rendition of Di Canio’s terrace song, sung in his Missouri lilt.
“I didn’t celebrate on Tuesday,” the Sunderland boss said.
“It was difficult for me to celebrate. I could jump around and release the stress, but it’s difficult for me, I don’t know why.
“Obviously I was happy for Ellis and the people at the club. Every time somebody gives me an opportunity to do what I love, to be a manager to prove myself, they believe in you, the pressure they are worried something could go wrong, once the job is done in the right way, I’m very happy for them. For the fans and the players, the people who gave me the responsibility.
“We have saved the club, that was the expectation and I have delivered for them. When I received the call from the chairman at midnight I was very happy, I could hear in his voice, he sung me a song, it was amazing. I was laughing and smiling. It was fantastic. I believe in something special for him.”
Mission accomplished, Di Canio might be expected to turn the volume down a little bit.
But if anything he was more relentless on Wednesday, insisting there is no room to pause in his mission to try and reshape Sunderland and turn the club into top-ten regulars.
“We have a chance to build something for the future,” he said. “We need some players to join us, it will be tough but I prefer this. It will be a hard job, but in a different way. There will be different expectations, even when you work so hard, when a flower grows in front of you the first days are crucial. I work in this way.”
Interestingly, Di Canio has pulled the plug on something that regularly happened under predecessor Martin O’Neill - allowing players to fragment after the game and make their own way home at a later date.
Branding it a “Sunday league” tactic, the Italian wants his team to foster a sense of togetherness by travelling back as one - and then working for a few days before letting them go. He also added that he would be observing their attitude over the next few days before deciding how long they would have off in the close season.
“It is crucial for me to see what happens on Sunday, then I will decide when the players can go on holiday.
“They will come back for a couple of days next week. I don’t see professionalism if we fly down together on Saturday and then on Sunday they fly here and there.
“You can imagine their approach if that happens and we say from London you can fly where you want, Malta, Cyprus. It’s not serious.
“They have 44 days holidays. The minimum I am obliged to give them is 28, four weeks. 44 days is incredible. They have already had 100 days probably.
“I don’t want to say 28 because for the modern football generation they will say this is too tough. So we will fly back together and say thank you to everyone. We could have some fun together and then they can go on holiday.”