PAOLO DI CANIO admits Wes Brown has proved him wrong after initially informing the Sunderland defender that he was not part of his plans.
Brown’s encouraging comeback from a long-term knee injury continued yesterday after the centre-half found the net in Sunderland’s Barclays Asia Trophy triumph over Spurs, here in Hong Kong.
Sunderland had offered to reach a settlement on the remaining two years of Brown’s contract at the Stadium of Light after the former England international had been sidelined from competitive action since January 2012.
Brown rejected the proposal, yet was then told personally by Di Canio that he was not on his list of existing players who he was planning Sunderland’s future around for this season.
But the 33-year-old has managed to fight his way back to full fitness - not missing a single training session during pre-season - and Di Canio admits the former England international is now very much part of his plans.
Di Canio told SportMail: “I have to be honest and say that with a team I wanted to rebuild, I thought at the beginning that he was not on my list for the future.
“After one year and two months out, at his age, I couldn’t start thinking about a player who I didn’t know if I could rely on.
“I spoke to him and was clear that he wasn’t on the list.
“But I’m very happy to tell him now that he’s completely on my list.
“He has got experience, quality, desire and he can help the others.”
The Sunderland head coach added: “The club had a conservation with him, but with his strong character, he said ‘I feel a footballer, I want to stay here and prove it’.
“He is the perfect professional to have in a squad and what a player, he hasn’t stopped for one minute in a training session.
“My pre-season is very tough, but he hasn’t had any problems.”
Di Canio is wary of tempting fate with Brown after the ex-Manchester United defender broke down with a recurrence of his knee injury during pre-season in South Korea last summer.
Yet the Italian has revealed the difference between Brown’s performance on the training field over the last month, compared to last season.
“I have to thank him and also the kind of staff I’ve got because for one year he couldn’t train, let alone play a full match,” added Di Canio.
“Under me, for 48 days, he didn’t have one training session under me because he’d always have a problem after 20 minutes - ‘I can’t run, I can’t run’.
“Now, he’s trained for nearly 30 days, including friendly matches, without any problems.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but that’s proved what kind of character he’s got.
“He’s got to keep pushing to improve his strength to support his knee.
“But I hope he keeps going and he deserved man of the match yesterday.”