Old pal Hughes backs Di Canio to succeed with Sunderland

Hartlepool boss John Hughes during the defeat at Oldham Athletic
Hartlepool boss John Hughes during the defeat at Oldham Athletic
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HARTLEPOOL United boss John Hughes believes ex-Celtic team-mate Paolo Di Canio will save Sunderland from the drop.

Hughes played with the new Sunderland head coach at Parkhead during the mid-1990s and the pair were reunited when Pools met Swindon Town in February.

That proved to be Di Canio’s last match in charge at the County Ground, although his touchline passion that day was not lost on his opposite number.

And with Di Canio brought in to steer Sunderland clear of the Premier League drop zone in the final seven matches of the season, Hughes predicts that the Italian will succeed in keeping the Black Cats away from the trapdoor to the Championship.

Ex-Livingston, Hibs and Falkirk boss Hughes said: “It was good to see him the other week.

“I thought I could talk, he’s non-stop.

“As a team-mate he was brilliant – he was passionate and volatile but there was a real sense of camaraderie and solidarity when he was on your side.

“He was very opinionated on how we should play the game, so it’s no surprise he’s now gone into coaching and I think he’s a good appointment.

“I’ve come down to the North East and I want all of the teams to do well.

“So I’m looking forward to seeing Paolo make a success of it – and trust me, he will.

“He never doubts himself.

“He’s the gaffer – you have to dance to his tune.

“Once the boys get over his regime, then I think he has good professionals there – your Steven Fletchers, John O’Sheas, Craig Gardners – who want to succeed.”

Hughes also hopes that he can benefit from his former team-mate’s appointment by taking the cream of Sunderland’s academy on loan.

“I’ll let him get settled in but then I’ll be in touch and look to get in there with him,” added Hughes.

“I’ll hopefully watch them train and pick up one or two ideas on how he does things.

“I’m always keeping an eye on what young players the clubs up here have, so knowing Paolo like I do will be a big help.

“I’m a friend of his and I wish him all the best and hopefully, in time, I’ll get in there with him and we can use it to the advantage of Hartlepool.”