Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio wants to be a hero

Paolo Di Canio is an energetic manager. Photo: PA

Paolo Di Canio does not want to be regarded a hero on Wearside just because he has won one derby.

The 44-year-old announced his arrival in style on Sunday when, in just his second game at the helm, he guided the Black Cats to a 3-0 victory over Newcastle at St James' Park, their first on Tyneside for 13 years.

Fans have been buzzing ever since with fanzine A Love Supreme doing a roaring trade in commemorative t-shirts, and Di Canio, as is so often the case for the central figures in Tyne-Wear triumphs, has been elevated to the red and white pantheon.

However, the Italian is adamant that one victory, or even saving the club from relegation to the npower Championship, should not afford him that status.

He said: "I don't want to be a hero now. I don't want to be a hero when we stay up, I don't want to be a hero next year.

"It's easy for the fans to call the players, the manager, heroes if they do the right things and an incredible job.

"Maybe one day of we win something, they can call me hero, but it's not the time now, even if we stay up. It's not the time for a single game.

"I understand what it means - I used to do the same as a Lazio fan. We won the derby, [Bruno] Giordano was a striker who scored an incredible goal and he was my hero.

"I know, but it's not enough for me, not even if we stay up. If we stay up, it would be a fantastic step to build a good future.

"One day, in 10 years' time if I became the best manager in this club's history, they can call me hero, otherwise it's not enough, one game, two games, 10 games, 20 games.

"In 10 years' time, they will decide if I can be called hero, even if I don't like anyway this adjective, 'hero'.

"But when I deliver a special, special thing, maybe they can call me hero."

Di Canio's laudable pragmatism reflects the position in which he inherited Sunderland from predecessor Martin O'Neill.

They remained outside the Barclays Premier League relegation zone only on goal difference and had not won in nine games as they headed for St James', and the three points with which they returned, priceless as they were, may count for little if they lose to Everton at the Stadium of Light.

That is something they have done 12 times in their last 16 league meetings.

Di Canio said: "I have to be honest, obviously the day after Newcastle, I saw a very good mood. It was fantastic for the players.

"But I was more happy two days later when we started again with a training session together because, to be honest, I saw them really focused and really concentrated on the next match.

"I was worried the day before I met them because I was thinking, 'I don't know them, I haven't known them for many years, so I don't know how they will react'.

"That can be a poison instead of an extra lift, but to be honest, the way they have done things in the last few days has made me very happy because I have seen them really focussed for the next match."

For striker Steven Fletcher, the focus is not on the next match, but on the start of next season with the club confirming today that he underwent surgery on Monday to repair the ankle ligament damage he suffered on international duty with Scotland last month.

Asked if the 26-year-old will be fit in time for the new campaign, Di Canio said: "We all hope that can be possible, but in the next two weeks, the specialist and the physio are going to have a meeting and have a clear picture.

"I hope, obviously, he can be ready for the summer."

The Black Cats are yet to reveal details of his recovery period.

News of the frontman's absence for the remainder of the season was announced on the same day as skipper Lee Cattermole was ruled out with a persistent knee problem, and represented a major blow to then manager Martin O'Neill with the club fighting for Barclays Premier League survival.

O'Neill revealed at the time that he was hopeful Fletcher would not need surgery, but admitted it was a possibility if the ankle did not settle down with treatment and rest.

The Ulsterman was replaced by Paolo Di Canio on March 31 with the newcomer well aware he would be without the man most likely to fire the Black Cats out of trouble.

In the circumstances, he challenged the rest of his players to come up with the goals to keep them in the top flight, and received the perfect response on Sunday when Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and David Vaughan struck to secure a famous 3-0 derby victory at Newcastle.

However, Sunderland remain only three points clear of the relegation zone with five games to play despite Wigan's 1-0 defeat at Manchester City last night, and the Latics still have a game in hand on their fellow relegation contenders.

The Black Cats entertain high-flying Everton at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, when anything other than three points could dissipate the euphoria of their heroics on Tyneside.