PAOLO Di Canio says that next time his players are walking around the Stadium of Light saluting the fans, he wants it to be a lap of honour not a walk of shame.
The head coach admits that last weekend’s lap of appreciation left “a bad taste in the mouth” after the Black Cats failed to overcome Southampton, who played better on the day than the home side did.
He also felt uncomfortable taking the applause when Sunderland’s Premier League safety was still not guaranteed.
But he says that memories like those will act as motivation for him next season.
“Next season, we want to make sure that the last lap will be a moment when we can smile because we have done something special during the season,” he told the Echo.
“That might not be win the league, but to win a cup or to have stayed up with six games at least remaining.
“If it’s with 12 games to go that we are guaranteed staying up, then we might be challenging for the Champions League!
“But even if it’s with four games to go, you can finish in the top half from that position.
“In my opinion, I’m sure we’re going to change next season and then the story will turn.
“I’m sure I’m right about this.”
So disappointing were Sunderland in their drawn game against Southampton – which left the Black Cats sweating on Wigan’s game against Arsenal on Tuesday – that the vast majority of fans had already exited the Stadium of Light when the players returned to the pitch.
Di Canio acknowledged the few thousands fans who remained, as he brought up the rear of the squad, but he admits it did not feel right.
“The club wanted to do something public to show us thanking the fans and I completely understand that – that lap we did was in appreciation of their fantastic support.
“But a few players said to me afterwards that it left a bad taste because the Southampton performance was not one to be proud of.
“And it left a bad taste with me too in being applauded by the fans when we still weren’t completely sure of Premier League safety.
“But these are things that we have to remember and build on.
“One of main motivations next season should be in ensuring that next time we walk out in front of our fans in the final game of the season at the Stadium of Light, we can be proud of what we have done for them.”