PAOLO DI CANIO says derby hero David Vaughan has earned the rewards for his dedication in the gym.
Vaughan missed Di Canio’s first game in charge of Sunderland at Chelsea a fortnight ago after suffering a groin injury on international duty for Wales.
The 30-year-old has been troubled by groin problems all season – ever since undergoing a double hernia operation during Sunderland’s pre-season campaign.
But Vaughan returned from injury to net a stunning first goal of the season in last weekend’s derby victory, with head coach Di Canio convinced that the former Blackpool midfielder has been boosted by his work on the weights over the last fortnight.
Di Canio told the Echo: “As a footballer, you can see when he plays in the middle, he’s got armour in his body.
“But he’s had to go in the gym for his groin because he’s had some problems this season.
“In the last two weeks, he’s spent a lot more time in the gym working on his core.
“That has helped him because obviously his technique is very good.
“Credit to him because he’s done a fantastic job and worked so hard.”
From the St James’s Park dug-out, Di Canio was in line with Vaughan when he unleashed his stunning left-footed drive into the top corner for Sunderland’s third goal on Tyneside.
A respectful hush comes over Di Canio when he talks about the strike and Vaughan’s technique in further extending Sunderland’s advantage over the Magpies.
The Italian even compares it with his own volley for West Ham against Wimbledon in 2000 – a strike that was voted the best of the season and is still rated as one of the most eye-catching goals of the Premier League era.
“His first touch was crucial in scoring that fantastic goal,” added Di Canio.
“I look at everything, not just the strike into the top corner because he orientated his body in an instant in the right way.
“The ball was behind his body-line, but he dropped off half a yard and took the ball with the outside of his left foot to prepare his next step.
“The touch was perfect and then the balance in the way he struck it, with one leg on the ground and the other swinging and striking.
“He landed like a ballet dancer.
“I remember when I did the volley. You don’t fall over in a not very elegant way.
“His body shape was perfect.”