No substitute for hard work at Sunderland

Paolo Di Canio.
Paolo Di Canio.
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PAOLO DI CANIO says it is impossible for his training regime to go overboard during pre-season.

Sunderland’s players landed back in England this morning after a draining week-long stay in Hong Kong, with Di Canio’s men due to resume training at the Academy of Light on Wednesday.

After overseeing a 10-day boot camp in Italy earlier this month, Di Canio continued to work his players hard in the Far East, with daily double training sessions - plus two games on the dreadful Hong Kong Stadium pitch.

But Di Canio says his players cannot do enough at this stage of the campaign, as he attempts to fine-tune their fitness for the start of the Premier League in 19 days time.

Di Canio said: “Is it possible to over-train players? At this stage, no.

“I found with some players last year that they were under-training.

“It is not at the end of the season where you have played many games.

“It is only the beginning and they’ve come from 40 days off so you can’t over-train.

“We have to be careful because we have the plan with our fitness coach.

“But we know that we can pay the price now because we want to be sharp.

“It’s obvious that when we start the season officially after one or two games, we can use our energy in the right way.

“You have to fight sometimes with your demons because if you didn’t have this habit before, the brain thinks ‘what is going on?’.

“But it is important that we are sharp in 19 days time.”

Despite Sunderland suffering a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in Saturday’s Barclays Asia Trophy final, Di Canio insists he was more than happy with the efforts of his players.

And the Black Cats head coach was particularly relieved to his senior statesmen come through the game unscathed after Manchester City centre-half Matija Nastasic was stretchered off from a dreadful surface.

“I’ve seen two teams who’ve lost one player to injury – one for an ankle problem (Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen) and one who came off on Saturday,” added Di Canio.

“I just kept my fingers crossed and the grandads like John O’Shea and Wes Brown, they played 90 minutes which means our pre-season is a good medicine.

“I said that we want to play when we’ve got the chance, but it was obviously more difficult on that kind of field.

“In general, we have done a good job.

“The opponents are one of the best clubs in the world in terms of individuals, so I’m more than satisfied.

“There was a good spirit and attitude, especially in the first quarter of an hour. We had three or four potential chances.

“With the first chance for them, the goal came.

“I’m not happy, because you never are if you lose. But I’m happy with my players.”