PAOLO DI Canio is well aware of those fighting against Sunderland to remain in the Premier League after watching the Black Cats’ relegation rivals in the flesh over the last two months.
Di Canio was not idle during his break from the dug-out after resigning from his position as manager of League One club Swindon Town in February.
The Italian’s aspiration to take charge of a Premier League club saw him keep abreast of matters in the top flight and he has watched several games over recent weeks.
Coincidentally, they have predominantly involved teams involved in the relegation battle, those now looking to plunge Di Canio’s new employers into the bottom three.
Di Canio told the Echo: “Since leaving Swindon, I’ve been in England, watching a few matches – Southampton, Reading, Aston Villa and QPR.
“This is the football I love and it was my intention to remain here because I wanted to have a chance to manage in the Premier League.
“I love England, English people and English football. This is my life.
“By accident and coincidence, I’ve watched all the teams in the relegation fight.
“But, to be honest, this is a completely different club to Reading or QPR.
“That’s why I said yes straightaway when I had a chance of coming in here.”
Di Canio takes charge at a perilous time for Sunderland, with only a point separating the Wearsiders from the drop zone.
Fourth-bottom Wigan still boast a game in hand on Sunderland, while, on paper at least, Di Canio’s side have the toughest run-in among the Premier League’s strugglers.
But after being appointed Sunderland head coach within just 24 hours of Martin O’Neill being sacked, Di Canio claims there were no discussions with owner Ellis Short over the implications of relegation.
The former West Ham forward remains supremely confident that he can lead Sunderland to Premier League survival, starting with Sunday’s tough test at Chelsea.
“No, we didn’t speak about relegation because there wasn’t any doubt,” he added.
“How can you think about that?
“I took a big job and I was focused on getting here as soon as possible to find out about the injuries and the players’ habits.
“It’s a massive job, but we are fully confident that we can keep this club up.”