Will Craig Gardner be Di Canio’s first ‘victim’?

Sunderland’s Craig Gardner has hit back at manager Paolo Di Canio’s claims that the side isn’t fit enough.

Think back to Paolo Di Canio’s time at Swindon and think back to all of the examples where he dropped players or took them out of the team to make a point to rest of his playing staff.

He’s now at Sunderland, which is a completely different situation altogether but Craig Gardner has risked being cast aside following his backlash against comments about the fitness of the squad.

Di Canio said one of the first changes he was going to make to the current side was to improve the general fitness of the squad to a point where they’d be able to compete later into matches.

Gardner has responded by calling claims over poor fitness ‘rubbish’ and he’s defended the Sunderland squad and the previous regime, which means there is now a little bit of friction between himself and the manager.

Di Canio has also added to the tension, suggesting that the absence of Gardner for the derby match against Newcastle United this weekend is no real loss and that the side can cope.

He’s only been in the job for a short period of time and it’s almost as though he’s already made his mind up that Gardner is worth keeping an eye on because of his media comments, whether he states it publicly or not.

The fact the end of the season is so close is significant because if Di Canio doesn’t want to use him, after he criticised the manager’s comments, he can just bench for a relatively short amount of time or leave him out completely.

It also means that both parties could move on very quickly once the transfer window opens in the summer, which would pacify both sides and prevent a long drawn out argument such as the case of Peter Odemwingie at West Brom.

What should be alarming to Sunderland supporters is the fact this has happened so quickly and given Di Canio’s track record at Sunderland, it won’t be a surprise if Gardner doesn’t play for the club again.

Di Canio has always allowed players a way back into the side in this sort of situation, but it’s highly unlikely that Gardner will apologise for logical comments, which were aimed at defending his teammates and the previous regime at the club.

If he wants to play for the club again, he may well have to go into the Italian’s office at some point and grovel, but it could be a sign of things to come. Cross the manager and he’ll make your position untenable.

Sunderland fans, what do you think?

image: © infollatus

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