Paolo Di Canio is convinced Sunderland would have been relegated if he had not replaced Martin O'Neill at the end of March and believes his disciplinarian approach to management can bring success to Wearside next season.
"I have to be honest, yes I think we would have gone down," said Sunderland's ever-candid manager. "In my opinion this team was down. Some people said I would be too hard and would stress the players but we have recovered mental energy."
The resultant haul of eight points from six games ahead of Sunday's trip to Tottenham has afforded Di Canio a Premier League platform to implement what he terms "the revolution in the brain" required at the Stadium of Light next season.
"After 40 years [since the 1973 FA Cup final win over Leeds United] can we win another final?," asks the Italian. "I think we can have a magic combination. Only the future can tell if I'm right but I think Paolo Di Canio will be right. I hope we can celebrate one day."
Ellis Short, Sunderland's owner, is set to appoint Roberto De Fanti, a Fifa registered agent, as the club's director of football during a busy summer in which the scouting system is due for a radical overhaul and Di Canio is expected to sign around six new players.
While the manager's threat to slash his squad's summer holiday allowance if he detects any coasting at Spurs and habit of issuing fines for minor rule breaches has met with widespread approval, some observers wonder if, like his compatriot Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, Di Canio may be too strict.
"I don't agree completely," he said before analysing the events which prompted Mancini's departure from City. "It's not easy when you've got big egos like Carlos Tevez. With Mancini he had a simple difficulty: he had seven top hot-headed footballers. One or two you can handle, but not seven.
"Also players are piranhas. They smell if you are weak. Mancini started something political with the board. The players knew. They saw a fault-line. It was easy for them to say 'now we relax'. If they think you are weak it will change the dynamic."
Accordingly Di Canio is seeking respect rather than devotion. "Respect is simple but it's difficult to have devotion in the modern game," he said.
"How is someone going to have devotion to you when you are nothing to them. You can help them, you can stimulate a part of their brain, wake up their nature and they will say 'oh, with this man I want to do things' but I don't want devotion. I want them to follow me, and if they do, we will smile together one day ,for sure."
O'Neill's successor laughed at suggestions that he is overly driven and needlessly obsessive. "No, no I'm not pathological," he said. "I'm conscientious. We have to push to the maximum to change the mentality."
Foremost among those Sunderland players who have responded to his tutelage is Jack Colback. Capable of operating in midfield or at full back, Colback has gained a new lease of life.
"Jack can improve a lot but he has surprised me in every training session," said Di Canio who believes left back will eventually prove Colback's best position. "He's strong, sharp and intelligent. He uses his body well. If he retains his genuine, brave mentality he has a great future. If he remembers all the time where he came from, he will be a very great footballer in the future."
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