Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Di Canio planning wholesale changes

Sunderland 1 Southhampton 1

Paolo Di Canio is ready to shake things up at Sunderland next season

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has warned his players there will be wholesale changes next season whether they stay up or not.

The Black Cats edged a point closer to Barclays Premier League safety after a 1-1 home draw with Southampton on a day when victory would have guaranteed survival. They are one of three sides - Aston Villa and Wigan are the others - who could still go down, although their fears will be over without kicking a ball on Tuesday night if the Latics lose at Arsenal in their game in hand.

But regardless of what transpires when the Wearsiders bring the curtain down at Tottenham next weekend, there will be a major shake-up when they return after the summer. Di Canio said: "Let me be sure that we are going to keep the club up, and then I am going to change everything. I am going to change everything."

He added: "I'm not going to push all the players out, but I am going to keep the right players and bring in the right players if it is possible. When I came, obviously I knew before the quality we had was exciting, talking about Stephane (Sessegnon), (Adam) Johnson, (John) O'Shea at the back and many others, young fellas with quality.

"But the environment - I am not accusing anyone, but it was dead, the environment was dead, now I can tell you."

For eight, fleeting minutes, Sunderland and their fans thought they had ended their relegation fears after full-back Phil Bardsley, only back in the team because of Craig Gardner's suspension, blasted them into a 68th-minute lead.

The goal prompted Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino to make a double change, and his decision could hardly have worked out any better. James Ward-Prowse and Jason Puncheon were the men to replace Jack Cork and Adam Lallana, and the pair dragged the visitors back into the game and to effective safety within four minutes of their introduction.

The former crossed for the latter, who forced the latest in a series of fine saves from Simon Mignolet with a powerful header, but Puncheon reacted first to thump the rebound into the roof of the net.

Pochettino was delighted to have completed the job he was controversially handed in January at the expense of predecessor Nigel Adkins.

Asked if he had justified his appointment, he said: "I'm not sure. I've been hearing the same question for four months now. It's not for me to answer that question. Yes, we are happy. The players have put in an amazing performance in the four months that I have been here. That's what I can do. I can't speak about previous to when I arrived."