Sunderland boss wants English heartbeat in midfield

Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio

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PAOLO Di Canio wants the heartbeat of his new Sunderland side to be English.

The head coach has spent the summer bringing foreign recruits into the Stadium of Light.

But last night he said that a ball-playing English central-midfielder - around which his remodelled side would revolve - was absolutely key to his plans.

And while he still wants to strengthen his options at full-back, maybe even bring in a winger, the acquisition of that key player in the middle of the park is his absolute top priority.

“The club is working on the two full-backs but more important to me is the need to get a key player in central midfield - someone who’s English,” he said.

“He needs to be English, with a physical presence because we have analysed that that is a need we have.

“English, because he needs to know English football inside out.

“And also a player with very good quality - because we want to play attractive football which gets good results.”

That sort of player sounds very much like Tottenham Hotspur’s Tom Huddlestone, who the Echo exclusively revealed in June, was a player Sunderland had made serious inquiries for.

The Black Cats have kept tabs on the England international throughout the summer and he remains very much at the top of the list.

But with no breakthrough having been made, the club is also scouting other possible signings who could fulfil that role.

Di Canio says though the success of that pursuit lies is firmly in the hands of the club’s newly appointed Director of Football Roberto De Fanti and chief scout Valentino Angeloni, rather than his own.

“I hope it can be done,” the head coach said. “I know they are working to make it happen.

“I hope it does, because as head coach I know the process of improvement - how to link the middle of the field with the back four, or the front four.

“Everyone can have their opinion.

“But to me it is clear that we need a real play-maker, with a real identity, and not just a player who can fill in, in that role.”