No rest for Di Canio after Sunderland secure survival

Paolo Di Canio says his Sunderland squad will get the 'minimum' summer holiday in preparation for next season. Photo: PA

Paolo Di Canio has warned his players their summer holidays could be cancelled as he prepares to implement his brave new world at Sunderland.

The 44-year-old Italian completed the first phase of his mission on Wearside last night while sitting in his armchair as Wigan's defeat at Arsenal guaranteed the Black Cats their place in next season's Barclays Premier League.

However, if the players he inherited from Martin O'Neill expected a pat on the back as they prepared for Sunday's final day trip to Tottenham, they were soon disabused of the notion.

Di Canio said: "I told them we can win, draw or lose with dignity, respecting the club's name and the fans who follow them. But if not, I will reduce their holiday.

"I will give them the minimum I can give to them, which is four weeks, 28 days instead of probably 38, 40 or 41.

"It depends because in some way we have to start to change the mentality. Just because I fell in a trap against Aston Villa, I don't want to fall in a trap again.

"I am sure that four or five individuals don't need this kind of situation, but many others have to realise we need to change mentality or we have to use punishments in some way.

"It's not fair, but until the day I am sure that my players can go on the field and in some ways I can remain at home, I have to use anything I can to help change their mentality."

Survival, the very minimum requirement for the season, has justified owner and chairman Ellis Short's decision to replace O'Neill with Di Canio at the end of March, and the new manager has been delighted with the response he has had from his players.

He said: "It was important to maintain this club in the Premier League. I am very happy for the people who gave me the chance to deliver the job, for Ellis, for the Board, for the environment, for the fans, for the players because they were the protagonists.

"They pushed very hard because it was difficult for them to change habits and mentality, but in the end we delivered a great job and we are happy."

However, the improvements he wants to make on the pitch will be backed-up by changes in attitude and discipline off it, and several offenders have already fallen foul of Di Canio's strict regime.

He said: "If you think that, not because they are bad guys, but in the last five days, I have given into my players' hands individually seven fines for silly things - seven, it has never happened before - for very bad things.

"Every Friday morning, there's a signing session upstairs, seven steps - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, a table - and people forget.

"It is a rule in the contract - it is crucial for the club, for the people, children who, even if they can't see you, hope to have a shirt with 20 signatures - and you forget.

"It's not fair. It has happened many times, but they didn't get fined. Now they are fined because you have to start somewhere, otherwise we are never going to change.

"Small things like this become big problems. We have to respect the rules, otherwise we are never going to change.

"For some, it was easy, for a few of them. For many of them, it was and is still difficult because what I ask is very heavy for some of them.

"For me, it is normal; for John O'Shea, it is normal - he came from an environment [at Manchester United] where people used to throw away boots in people's faces, the best manager in the world - thanks Alex - if they didn't behave well."