‘Are you shocked? I’m not’ – Gary Bennett says Di Canio was too strict with Sunderland players

Sunderland's manager Paolo Di Canio, left, is sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson.
Sunderland's manager Paolo Di Canio, left, is sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson.
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FORMER Sunderland defender and BBC Radio Newcastle pundit Gary Bennett admits the gamble of handing Di Canio the reins at Sunderland never really paid off.

Bennett said: “From the start, everybody knew it was a gamble. It was one way or the other it was going to go.

“The question is are you surprised? Not really, you are not shocked.”

Di Canio’s authoritarian style ultimately proved to be his downfall with his strict regime off the pitch – at its extremes, he banned ketchup and mayonnaise from the training ground and railed about the relaxed relationship between his players and the club’s ancillary staff – sowing seeds of discontent.

But it was his public criticism of senior players and his inability to halt a short, but alarming slide which eventually did for him.

Bennett said: “You look at the training regime - fair enough, if that’s what you believe in, that’s fine; discipline, you have got to have discipline, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s when you take it to the next step; and then you bring in 14 players.

“It always seems to be to the extreme. When you are disciplining three players, bringing in rules about what you can and can’t do and who you can and can’t speak to...

“Then I think there’s only one game when he hasn’t made a substitution at half-time. You can get away with it two or three times, but when it’s every game near enough, you are thinking ‘Why?’.”