PAOLO Di Canio wants to instill a winning mentality on Wearside after being taken aback by the reaction to Wigan’s survival setback.
The Sunderland head coach is eager to develop the Black Cats into a side that regularly finishes in the top half of the Premier League, and can eventually challenge for a European spot.
But top flight survival is Di Canio’s immediate priority, and Sunderland received a major boost in that objective on Tuesday night when Wigan lost 3-2 to Swansea, leaving the Black Cats just one win away from guaranteeing their Premier League status.
Yet Di Canio has been stunned by the relief, and even euphoria, around the club which has greeted Wigan’s defeat, and believes Sunderland should instead be focusing on securing their own destiny – something they can achieve when Southampton visit the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
“We have to change the mentality – to concentrate on what we are doing, not worry about what other teams are doing,” said Di Canio.
“We can’t think ‘thank-you Swansea, Wigan lost, so now maybe we are going to stay up’.
“We can’t think like that.
“We don’t want to be going into the last game of the season hoping that Wigan or someone loses, we want to win our own game, and then we don’t have to care about how anybody else does.
“We have to focus on winning our own games, and be happy that we have prepared properly and done that.
“On Sunday, we want to beat Southampton. It is in our hands. If we win, our goal difference means we are effectively safe.
“If we lose, everybody will be looking at Wigan v Aston Villa on the last day.
“If we draw, maybe we stay up.
“But what mentality is this?
“We can’t be relying on other results. That’s very negative.
“We have to get the points we need to get ourselves safe, not hope that others do it for us.”
Di Canio believes the mindset is prevalent throughout the whole club, not just the players.
But the Italian is eager for Sunderland to be fretting next season over whether they will finish in the top 10, not whether they will be relegated.
“Some people have a negative mentality, always worried – not just the technical staff or the players, but also from the other people around us,” he added.
“If we don’t change the attitude, we will never change the mentality at this club.
“In the future, I want to make sure that we have a different approach in these kind of situations.
“Because this club has the potential to be a top 10 club every season.
“With eight, nine, 10 games to go, we should be looking to win four or five to push on and finish in the top seven – or maybe the Europa League one day.”
“West Brom have done it this season.
“We can do it too.
“But we have to change the mentality.”