Sunderland are facing possibly their toughest pre-season schedule ever ahead of next season.
Paolo Di Canio hasn’t been in the Sunderland job for very long but he’s already pinpointed areas of the team for improvement, which he says are currently holding the team back.
One of those areas is the fitness of the players, which he has suggested isn’t good enough and that could mean that Sunderland’s stars are in for the challenge of their lives when they hit pre-season next year.
Di Canio was notorious during his time at Swindon in the lower leagues for drilling his players hard, as a way to dramatically increase their fitness to a point where they would be head and shoulders above their rivals.
In that respect it worked because Swindon got promotion from League Two and are now competing to be promoted to the Championship from League One.
In short it means Sunderland players are going to face possibly the toughest pre-season fitness regime that they have ever endured in their lives and it’s more than likely going to start straight away.
Fingers crossed it doesn’t backfire at Sunderland in the way it backfired with Leon Clarke at Swindon, who very publicly fell out with Di Canio when the Italian suggested he’d be doing extra running sessions because of his fitness.
Sunderland have had a disappointing season and they are teetering above the relegation zone in the Premier League, which prompted the appointment of Di Canio in the first place.
You’ll be hard pushed to find many Sunderland fans that will necessarily see this as a bad idea, especially if the club don’t hold off the drop and have to play Championship football for possibly the next one or two systems.
The one thing that appointing Di Canio guaranteed was a shake up and it’s already under way. If Sunderland can become a fitter team over the rest of the season, they stand a better chance of fighting late into games and hanging onto narrow leads.
It will also prepare the players for what they are likely to endure during pre-season, which means extra running and cardiovascular work won’t come as a surprise and they can prepare mentally for that, as opposed to thinking Di Canio is simply being harsh, picking on certain players or is just unrealistic.
It will also be an eye opener to the Sunderland players that they haven’t been good enough this season, although they already know, but it will prevent complacency in terms of starting positions.
If Di Canio spots anyone with a lethargic attitude towards training or someone who is trying to criticise or affect the new fitness training schedule, they will be out of the side very quickly.
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image: © Ronnie Macdonald