PAOLO Di Canio says he and his staff are trying hard to bring smiles back into training – while pushing his Sunderland’s players to the limit.
The Black Cats boss has made no secret of the fact that he is on a mission to boost the fitness and sharpness levels of his squad.
But he also wants his players to enjoy training too and says the feedback he has had so far has been positive.
“It takes time to really know whether your players will follow you,” he reflected.
“But I smell, I feel, that they want to, and that they are welcoming what we are trying to do.
“They smile, and I like that.
“The first days we were here, there was curiosity from them – they needed to discover what the new plan was, the new philosophy.
“In those first few days, you expect curiosity from the players and the desire to prove themselves.
“The second week, maybe they can relax and show themselves in a more natural way and that is what we are finding.
“That’s better – and today was better than yesterday, which was better than the day before – which is why I’m happy, which is why I’m smiling.”
Di Canio has insisted that twice a week his players sit down and eat together as a group, so that they get a further chance to bond.
He is also encouraging some players to come out of their shells and wants to encourage a lively training ground as well as a super-disciplined one.
He said: “I have spoken to people who have worked with them and they have told me that before they were sad, always down – that the character was strange and not very social.
“I heard of one player who barely speaks and would leave the ground straight away.
“But we sit for our lunch together and we talk to him over good food, we talk to him about things, five minutes, seven minutes – what does he eat, where does he go – because people have to know this in order to bond.
“And he has loved that because, before, he didn’t have a chance to open himself up.
“That is what we want, for people to bond, to improve that team spirit that is so important if you want a chance of being successful.
“Yes we will work hard, we make no apologies for that, but you also have to have fun too and want to work for each other as well as yourselves.”