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Di Canio thinks Cattermole could give Sunderland fire
12:00am Tuesday 17th September 2013 in Sport
PAOLO DI CANIO has told former captain Lee Cattermole he could still be the heartbeat of the Sunderland midfield if he has learned lessons from his time on the sidelines.
Cattermole has not figured for the Black Cats since Di Canio took over from Martin O’Neill in April because of a long-standing knee problem and a willingness on the manager’s part to sell him.
In recent weeks the situation has changed after a heart-to-heart talk with the Stockton-born former England Under-21s international, with the Sunderland boss turning down a loan offer from a Championship club last week.
Cattermole was not included in the match-day squad that faced Arsenal on Saturday, but he is not too far away from a recall after showing a willingness to work hard on the training ground.
“A club came in for him and I said ‘no’,” said Di Canio, who was yesterday fined £8,000 for admitting a charge of improper conduct from the Football Association.
“Ten days earlier I would have said ‘yes’. Obviously he has to keep going in the next few weeks. Potentially he's a better player than he maybe even thinks he is.
“In the last training session I see he can pass the ball. I have a long way to work but I recognise the makings of a good footballer. I found a fellow with very good desire, energy. It’s important he works very hard not only now but in five weeks time when he's maybe on the bench. He has to listen.”
Under Steve Bruce, who paid Wigan £6m for him in 2009, Cattermole effectively ran the dressing room with the manager’s blessing. Despite O’Neill’s arrival two years later, he was still very much the captain of the Sunderland squad.
But Di Canio has different ideas for a captain and is keen for every player to know the manager has the final say on things, which initially caused friction between the pair – particularly when Cattermole’s close friends, Phil Bardsley and Titus Bramble, were not well liked by the Italian either.
Cattermole was given a squad number, 33, and he could now be back sooner rather than later if he plays his cards right.
“We have to be honest, he wasn't in the plan,” said Di Canio. “I spoke with him for half an hour. Man to man. I told him to have a future here he had to convince me because I told him my regime is completely different to what you had until last year.
“He failed to find another club because he refused to go somewhere but I will treat him right. Paolo Di Canio is honest. I said ‘I know what you feel. I know what you felt. You are upset. It is part of the situation but now you have a big occasion’.”
Di Canio spent the summer constantly telling director of football Roberto De Fanti that he wanted a “British-styled” midfield player to get his team ticking this season. Ultimately, though, such a player was not brought in among the list of 14 new arrivals.
Cattermole has the ingredients Di Canio is looking for. He said: “I need British players; I need the quality, the intensity. I need the fire. Show me you have this character, this quality, this professionalism, this desire you will start games.
“I want a positive guy, even after being skipper who now maybe be on the bench. I said ‘now you can be a part of a squad that wants to play good football. You can be better than before. It's up to you. You have to jump. You have to back my regime’.
“I like his aggression because we need that in the middle. As a manager you have to help him control his aggression, rather than jumping in. But that doesn't mean he can't challenge. He's back. We need some more fire in the middle. Sometimes we will maybe pay a price with a yellow card but if he can help the others.”
Di Canio is not short of passion and aggression himself. Yesterday he admitted a charge of improper conduct by the FA for his actions during Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Arsenal. He was fined £8,000 but did not receive a touchline ban.
* Sunderland have pledged to make away days cheaper for Black Cats fans.
The Wearside club have selected a number of away games, commencing with the 700-mile round-trip to Swansea on October 19, where the club will subsidise the match ticket price for its season card holders by £10.
This will mean that an adult ticket for the Liberty Stadium will cost Sunderland fans £25 instead of £35 and an under-16 or over 60 will pay just £12.50 rather than £22.50.
As part of the initiative, the club is also undertaking work to make visiting the Stadium of Light a better experience for travelling fans, including enhancements to concourses and bars and improved directional signage. All 20 Barclays Premier League clubs have committed to support the scheme.
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