FORMER Sunderland midfielder Tommy Miller today offered an insight into the Paolo Di Canio regime and warned the current Black Cats crop that they are in for a shock.
Shotton Colliery-born Miller was signed by Di Canio for Swindon Town during the summer and was placed in caretaker charge of the Robins when the Italian tendered his resignation at the County Ground in February.
The 34-year-old paints a picture of the volatile and passionate figure which the new Sunderland head coach has been renowned for ever since his playing days.
But it is on the training ground where Miller says Di Canio will instantly make his mark when he takes charge of Sunderland’s players for the first time today.
After Di Canio led Swindon from League Two to the top of League One before resigning from the cash-strapped club though, Miller believes the former Sheffield Wednesday and Celtic striker has proved his methods produce results.
Miller (pictured, inset) told the Echo: “He’s totally different to any other manager I have played for, but he is very good once you buy into what he is all about.
“He’s massive on discipline and won’t take any nonsense from anybody.
“He’s very hands-on, both on the training pitch and away from it.
“His attention to detail on everything is first-class. He knows everything about the opposition he’s facing.
“Training will be totally different to anything they are used to. He’ll work with groups of defenders, then the midfielders and then the forwards.
“He’s excellent with the defenders considering he was such an attack-minded player. He’s got that Italian mentality defensively.
“That wins you games and he did that at Swindon.”
Miller says Di Canio will take most of the training himself, with assistant Fabricio Piccareta – expected to be confirmed as Sunderland’s new number two this week – concentrating on analysis.
“His number two, Fabricio, does not do much of the coaching,” he said.
“He is big on the video analysis while Paolo likes to be hands on with everything to do with the football.”
There will be no let-up for Sunderland’s players in Di Canio’s training regime either.
A day off will be a rarity for the Black Cats squad, yet, after joining Swindon on a free transfer in June, Miller says he quickly learned the benefits of that rigorous preparation.
“I went down the day before I signed and he explained some of the stuff that went on and I thought ‘really?’,” said the ex-Hartlepool United man.
“You rarely get days off. He doesn’t like that English mentality of days off.
“He believes in working hard to get fit.
“The first six to eight weeks there were quite tough. You had to be mentally strong.
“But, as you got further down the line, you could see the reason for him doing it.
“I have not been as fit since I was in the youth team at Hartlepool.
“He got me in the best place I have ever been in fitness-wise and I felt great for it.
“You can’t knock his ideas because they worked.”
Di Canio was notorious for pulling no punches with his players at Swindon.
He substituted 21-year-old goalkeeper Wes Foderingham just 21 minutes into a 4-1 defeat at Preston and came to blows with striker Leon Clarke after a League Cup defeat at Southampton.
Miller is watching on eagerly to see how Di Canio deals with Premier League players, but is convinced the 44-year-old will act in exactly the same manner.
“There are some big players at Sunderland and they’re not the same type of players,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see how he deals with bigger characters, but he is a strong believer in his own ideas and I don’t think he will change.
“It doesn’t matter how much of a name you are or how much money you earn.
“He has got his rules and his plans and he won’t change for anybody.”
The appointment of Di Canio has immediately made headlines, on a similar level to when Roy Keane took charge at the Stadium of Light.
And Miller, who was on Wearside when Keane became Sunderland manager, sees similarities between the pair.
“It’s similar, but Paolo is a bit more hands-on,” added Miller, who made 33 appearances for Sunderland during two years at the club.
“Roy Keane sat back and watched a lot of things in training.
“But Paolo has got a presence. When he speaks you listen.
“He is very volatile, but deep down the majority of the lads liked him.
“There were a few incidents that went on, but he did very well for the bulk of the players, helping them along the way and possibly making them better players.”