Paolo Di Canio angry at his Sunderland players for celebrating Wigan's midweek defeat

Di Canio's Sunderland are three points above 18th-placed Wigan with two games to play. Photo: PA

Paolo Di Canio has warned Sunderland they will never be anything other than "average" as long as they are happy for other clubs to do their dirty work.

The Black Cats are currently engaged in a tooth and nail fight for Barclays Premier League survival as they head into Sunday's home clash with Southampton just three points clear of the relegation zone.

They and their fellow strugglers were handed a significant boost on Tuesday evening when 18th-placed Wigan twice squandered the lead to lose 3-2 at home to Swansea, meaning three points this weekend would guarantee them their top-flight status barring a remarkable turn-around as a result of their superior goal difference.

However, Di Canio was dismayed when he arrived at the training ground on Wednesday at the general glee over the previous night's events at the DW Stadium.

He said: "I was angry because I don't like what is going on in this environment.

"I don't enjoy it and I will make sure in the future everybody has to change their mentality, not the players and the technical staff, the physios, the fitness coach, the refectory where they go for food, the directors.

"Everybody has to change mentality because if we are going always to delegate to others to do the job for us, we are going to remain an average team despite the fantastic potential the club has.

"I don't like it because I can help the players. But if they go to have a massage and they are talking about, 'Wigan, fantastic', Wigan, fantastic', 'Maybe we can stay up even with zero points if they lose at Arsenal', we are never going to be something important here.

"We have to make sure we change that mentality. It wasn't enjoyable because too many people were talking about Wigan, Wigan, Wigan.

"We have to win our game, we must win our game, that has to be the message.

"In the future, I want to make sure that we have a different approach in these kind of situations because this club has the potential to be a top 10 club every season."

In the future, I want to make sure that we have a different approach in these kind of situations because this club has the potential to be a top 10 club every season....We know what it means to play in front of 40,000 who are pushing for you. Even a Chihuahua can become a Rottweiler, so that is clear.

– Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio

Sunderland had hoped to have been safe long before now having travelled to Aston Villa with high hopes of victory only to lose 6-1, and then having had to stage a concerted fightback to salvage a 1-1 home draw with Stoke following Craig Gardner's dismissal for a foul on Charlie Adam.

The Saints too remain uncomfortably close to the drop zone, although Di Canio believes that could work in his side's favour.

He said: "It's probably better that we are playing against Southampton in this situation. I have said to my players, it's better we have this tough challenge instead of a team already safe in mid-table."

Di Canio will hope for another bumper crowd at the Stadium of Light to roar Sunderland over the finishing line when they need it most.

He said: "We know what it means to play in front of 40,000 who are pushing for you. Even a Chihuahua can become a Rottweiler, so that is clear."

The Italian will, however, have to patch up his team once again as a result of Gardner's suspension, which has cost him the season's run-in for the second time in three years after he missed the final game of former club Birmingham's vain relegation fight because of a red card.

Di Canio said: "It was a silly, silly, silly challenge. Players must realise that heart and passion don't mean that you have to tackle the opponent and go down to 10 men.

"It has happened in the past to him, so twice in not many years probably proves that you have a problem with this. We have to be careful. But it's done and we will work on it."