PAOLO Di Canio has given Craig Gardner permission to watch Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby at Newcastle United ... from the away section.
Sunderland’s attacking hopes have not been helped by the loss of eight-goal after the midfielder collected his 10th yellow card of the season at Stamford Bridge.
Although January recruit Danny Graham should be available after recovering from a knee problem, Gardner has been one of the few Sunderland players able to hold his head high over recent weeks.
Di Canio rates Gardner highly and sees the 26-year-old as integral to his long-term plans.
But on Sunday, Gardner will be with the travelling Sunderland supporters in the away stand at St James’s Park - a request Di Canio was happy to approve.
“I told Craig that he can go because he expressed the desire to experience the atmosphere,” added Di Canio.
“I told him to be careful and watch where you go.
“It’s important that he’s safe, but I want to see him jump and celebrate among the fans.
“It’s easy for me to say yes because it happened to me when I used to play for Lazio.
“But Craig is a big loss for Sunday.
“I’ve said we don’t have to cry because we have enough good players.
“But for me, he’s one of the leaders of the group and in the future, he’s going to be a main part of the group.”