For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Gardner says it's wrong to blame Di Canio for Sunderland's poor start
CRAIG GARDNER has leapt to the defence of manager Paolo Di Canio by insisting it will take time to turn Sunderland around after a worrying start to the new season.
The Black Cats are already facing an important trip to West Bromwich Albion this Saturday when a defeat would increase the spotlight on the Italian boss.
Di Canio is yet to lead his new-look Sunderland to a Premier League win this season and face daunting tests with Liverpool and Manchester United after appearing at The Hawthorns.
A failure to pick up anything from those three fixtures would mean just one point from the opening 21 available, which is likely to mean being cut further adrift at the foot of the division.
But Gardner sees no point in anyone criticising Di Canio, who has been afforded the responsibility of trying to oversee a complete change in the way Sunderland operate and has introduced 14 new players to his first team squad.
"I think a lot of the people who've been writing the manager off have got something against Paolo Di Canio," said Gardner. "It's not just his management skills, there's always something to knock him about. Of course he's a Premier League manager - he's managing in the Premier League and he's trying to change things here.
"We've still got faith in him as a squad, of course we have. The lads want to go out there and put in as much hard work as we do on the training pitch and go and get that first win that we want."
Gardner was highlighted by Di Canio as a player possessing the fire and character his team needs as Sunderland look to kickstart their season.
His goalscoring appearance in the defeat to Arsenal on Saturday was only his second of the campaign, but he is well aware of the need to start to pick up points quickly.
Sunderland are without a win from the opening four league games, losing three and drawing one.
And with the likes of Liverpool and United on the horizon, Gardner knows about the importance of this weekend's trip to West Brom.
"I don't think we should be too worried about it yet," said Gardner. "It is too early to be getting into the league table too much. The league is tight, one win and you're back in the top half or whatever. You can't really worry about it too much at the moment. It is very tight at the moment.
"It was the same last year, 12 or 13 teams were in the middle and there was hardly anything between them. As long as we keep putting performances in like we did in the second half against Arsenal we will pick the points up."
If Sunderland can win at The Hawthorns then they could climb as high as 13th, given the nature of the Premier League where just four points separate the bottom ten teams.
Di Canio is likely to make more changes to his team that appears against the Baggies, although Gardner is keen to hold down a place in the middle of Sunderland's midfield.
The 26-year-old spent the majority of last season playing full-back under both Martin O'Neill and Di Canio, but he is happy to be back in his preferred role after the arrival of Czech defender Ondrej Celustka.
Gardner said: "Hopefully this is my position now. I think everyone knows what I'm like at the football club now: I'm a genuine, 100 per center and wherever I'm asked to play by the manager I will happily go and play there.
"I've always felt midfield is my best position and I think I showed on Saturday a little bit of what I can bring to the team."
Skipper John O'Shea will be back in the Sunderland defence against West Brom after serving a one match ban for his red card at Crystal Palace.
Di Canio, who was openly critical after the error which cost his team dearly at Selhurst Park, said: "He misses a game because of the red card but for me it is not even a question that he might not be coming back in to the team. He's a big part of my plans this season."
Comments are closed on this article.