PAOLO Di Canio kept up his verbal assault on Sunderland players over the weekend by having a pop at Lee Cattermole, Phil Bardsley, John O’Shea and Steven Fletcher in the Sun, after being critical of the club in an interview with the BBC.
The ex-Sunderland head coach, sacked in September after a dismal run which brought just one Premier League point from the first five league matches is keen to return to football management.
And as part of his CV, he argues that he saved Sunderland from relegation last season and was sacked prematurely in the current one.
Since his departure, Bardsley and Cattermole, ostracised under the controversial Italian have been rehabilitated to the first team under replacement head coach Gus Poyet and played prominent parts in the club’s recent revival and the winning of a place in the Capital One Cup final.
Di Canio is scathing of both though and is also critical of John O’Shea for leading a player revolt which saw him ousted, and Steven Fletcher, with whom he endured a fractious relationship.
“Those two players [Cattermole and Bardsley] were rotten,” he said. “The most unprofessional players I ever worked with.
“What Bardsley has done in the last year speaks volumes.
“Photos of him lying on the floor in a casino covered by £50 notes and laughing at the team losing on the opening day, that’s public.
“It’s no surprise these players were kicked out of my plans.
“The reason Sunderland stayed up at the end of last season was because Cattermole was injured and Bardsley played very little.”
Rather than blaming himself for the club’s current predicament, Di Canio says much of the reason why the team has struggled is because they are mentally weak.
And he clearly remains bitter at what he sees as the duplicity of the man he appointed captain in place of Cattermole.
“I don’t like people who, when they speak to you, don’t look into your eyes,” said the 45-year-old ex-Swindon boss who says it is his “destiny” to manage West Ham.
“He [O’Shea] should say sorry to some of his team-mates for the many times he came into my office to say something unfavourable about them.
“This is the same person that also came to me when I first took over and said things about [Martin] O’Neill.”
As for Fletcher, Di Canio is dismissive of the Scotland striker’s claim he was not allowed to laugh or smile in training.
“I don’t like people fooling around when we’re having a serious discussion about strategy,” Di Canio said.
“I don’t like people who laugh when they keep missing the goal in training or miss a tackle that leads to conceding a goal.”