PHIL Bardsley says Sunderland could not possibly have a better man in their dug-out for Sunday’s high-noon Tyne-Wear derby than Paolo Di Canio.
The fiery Italian takes charge of Sunderland for the first time in the intense North East grudge match this weekend and Bardsley told the Echo: “He’s absolutely perfect for it.
“He’ll love a game like this and the sort of occasion it is.
“The one thing he has made clear is that he wants us to put heart and soul into every game and it goes without saying that you have to do that in this game more than any other.
“But he’ll also stress that we need to be controlled in our play as well as aggressive.
“We’ve built this game up over the years, sometimes making it bigger than it actually is, to the extent that sometimes we have been caught up in the atmosphere on the day.
“We know how important the occasion is to everyone, but the match itself we have to treat like any other – win that first tackle and put down a marker.”
Sunderland go into the game depleted by the loss of leading scorer Steven Fletcher and skipper Lee Cattermole.
On top of that, they are without the suspended Craig Gardner and have injury doubts over Titus Bramble, David Vaughan and Connor Wickham – though Di Canio has insisted the England Under 21 man will be fit for Sunday.
There’s also the small matter of a nine-game winless streak in which Sunderland have scored only three goals from open play.
But Bardsley is backing Di Canio, in his inimitable style, to get the most out of Sunderland’s players – with the 44-year-old not averse to slapping faces if it focuses thoughts!
“He gave me a little clip at one point at Chelsea when I was doing well!” smiled Bardsley. “He just wanted me to keep on going.
“That’s the way he is. He is charismatic.
“Everyone knows what he was like as a player and he’s the same as a manager.
“I’ve been really impressed by his ideas and the way he has come across.
“His team talks are quite inspiring, and he makes you feel like you are the best player in the world.
“When you go out on the pitch feeling that your manager believes in you, you can turn it on and really go and express yourself.”