Paolo di Canio 'crossed line' when criticising Sunderland players

Last Updated: 09/10/13 9:31am

Caretaker-manager Kevin Ball will give Sunderland's players fresh motivation following the sacking of Paolo di Canio, says Shay Given.

Ball will take charge of the Black Cats for Tuesday's League Cup tie at home to Peterborough after Di Canio was dismissed five games into the Premier League season.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Given worked with Ball during his loan spell at Sunderland in the mid-nineties and he told The Footballers' Football Show that the new regime could galvanise the club.

"Paolo was nailing everyone in public, which modern players don't like."

Shay Given

"I know Kevin Ball because I was at Sunderland myself in my younger days - I know what he's like; he's a real battler, he'll go in there and he'll freshen things up and maybe lift the pressure off the players a little bit," said Given.

"The next few weeks will be crucial for Sunderland and how their season will pan out because this group of players will be together until at least January and it's up to them to cross the white line and get the results for the club."


Sunderland confirmed Di Canio's departure on Sunday evening in the wake of their 3-0 loss to West Brom the day earlier, since when reports have emerged that some of the club's senior players expressed their concerns about the Italian's management style to club officials.

Given, who has made 600 career appearances for six clubs in a career spanning 1995-2013, said it appears that Di Canio had too often criticised his players when he should have been backing them.

"Some of the outbursts from Di Canio on certain players' performances after games was [odd]," said Given. "As a player yourself you'd want your manager to back you up and support you for the next game.

"Some of his comments were very harsh on some of the players when the following week you want them to go and play for you. It was a strange one.

"The timing of the decision could be questioned, I suppose, because he signed 14 players in the summer; they've given him a lot of money to bring in a lot of players and now a new manager is going to have to come in and manage a set of players that maybe he didn't want there, I suppose.

"I think he crossed the line. We all have bad games, don't get me wrong, but at the end of the game you want the manager to come out and go 'as a group - myself, my staff, my players were disappointing today - next week we'll put it right' whereas he was pointing the finger at the players, saying 'they let me down, individual mistakes, he was terrible'.

"I felt it was way over the top. If the manager comes out and says 'we were disappointing today', then as a player you will want to run through walls for him."


Watford boss Gianfranco Zola is among the bookmakers' favourites to take over from Di Canio in the longer term.

However, Given insisted that whoever does come in must possess strong man-management skills to turn around a start to the season that has yielded just one point from five games.

"The biggest example I had of a manager [who inspired me] was Kenny Dalglish - I had him at Blackburn and Newcastle.

"Kenny would be very much a guy who would never blame the players if the team played badly - he'd say 'we let the fans down as a group of staff and players'; the players would look at that and say 'we did let the manager down today'.

"He didn't do it publicly - he did it behind the scenes, in the dressing room. The following week you'd back the manager and he'd get the performance because he backed you the previous week.

"Di Canio, no disrespect, was in League Two with Swindon but then he was coming out and criticising some of the players at Premier League level.

"When you get to the Premier Leauge level, you are managing a really good group of quality players - and a lot of it is down to man-management.

"Some people need an arm around their shoulders, others need a gee up the backside. It's about managing certain individuals and making them a team.

"Paolo was nailing everyone in public, which modern players don't like. He wasn't doomed to fail. He came in at the end of last season and they got two fantastic results - they won 3-1 against Newcastle and the following week they beat Everton at home and he kept them safe. So that was a big job because they felt as though they might have gone down.

"But a new management has to come in and mould a team around the players that he signed."

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