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This club was fractured by Di Canio says Sunderland defender
PAOLO DI CANIO ‘fractured’ a club proud to be close to its roots was the claim from Carlos Cuellar last night after being given another chance to revive his own Sunderland career.
Cuellar has started both games for the Black Cats under caretaker manager Kevin Ball since Di Canio’s sacking having previously been forced to watch the opening six games of the season from the sidelines.
Cuellar might only be in his second year at the Stadium of Light, but the experienced Spaniard had never had to endure the level of frustration during spells with Osasuna, Rangers and Aston Villa.
Di Canio paid the price for being over-critical of his players’ mistakes both inside the dressing room and in public, which led to a dressing room rebellion against his reign.
Cuellar said: “I’ve never seen anything like the situation we had. It was the first time in my life I have seen something like that.
“We have to move forward and get over one person. The players and the badge are the most important. That is the history of the club.
“It is more important than the history of a player or the manager. But first of all we have to try to get the first win in the league and I think we are in the right frame of mind to get it.”
Cuellar was not completely aware of Sunderland’s achievements before Martin O’Neill took him to Wearside in the summer of last year. Nor was he familiar with the strong links it has with the city’s working-class background.
Such things are what Ball has been trying to drum in to a multi-national squad put together by Di Canio. Cuellar said: “I am happy here, I have been so happy since the first moment I signed.
“I didn’t know about the club but I talked about Craig Gardner and they told me it was like a big family and from the first minute I felt like I had been part of the club for a long time.
“I like the club and always try to do my best for them. That feeling of being a family was being fractured with everything that was going on but now it is pushing us in the right direction again.”
Following Di Canio’s sacking ten days ago on the back of a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, when the Italian clashed with players in the dressing room and at the training ground, Sunderland have looked rejuvenated.
There have been greater signs of togetherness in both the Capital One Cup win over Peterborough United a week ago and then against Liverpool on Sunday, even though Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge combined to inflict a 3-1 defeat.
“It has not been a difficult week, it was a good week because we won in the cup, everybody was happy and got back their confidence,” said Cuellar.
“Even before the game we thought we could get a point against Liverpool or three points, everyone wants to play and in the end it was Liverpool’s quality up front, which won it for us. We conceded one silly goal but we may be deserved a draw.
“The main difference we have seen under Kevin Ball is we have seen more of the ball - and happiness, more happiness. It is easy football, as simple as that. You don’t get other things.
“You can see the difference straight away. Everyone can make a mistake but everyone is behind their team mate now in case he makes a mistake. You could see we played as a team and everyone played for each other.”
Despite an improved mood, Sunderland are still rooted to the foot of the Premier League after collecting one point from an opening six matches. They have also conceded 12 goals in their last four league games.
But Cuellar’s only part in that run was against Liverpool on Sunday. He said: “I didn’t get a single chance with Di Canio, but I am always optimistic and always worked hard in case the opportunity came.
“I wanted to do my best, I got my chance on Tuesday and Sunday was my first league game, we didn’t get a good result but in general the performance was good.
“We can leave the pitch with our heads up. We know we can improve, can stop mistakes in some moments but if you can hold your head up, that is important.”
Sunderland owner Ellis Short is continuing to assess the credentials of the candidates to replace Di Canio. There is a growing feeling that Ball will be given the go-ahead to lead the team in to Saturday’s visit of Manchester United.
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