Sunderland must keep their heads against Fulham

Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio

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NEW-LOOK Sunderland must keep their heads at an expectant Stadium of Light tomorrow, says Paolo Di Canio.

Head coach Di Canio could hand debuts to as many as nine summer signings against Fulham this weekend, as the Black Cats begin a first full season under the Italian’s stewardship.

Inevitably, that will prompt a rowdy atmosphere for the Premier League curtain raiser, as more than 40,000 Sunderland supporters get a first glimpse in the flesh of Di Canio’s recruits.

But while Di Canio hopes that environment can inspire his players, he insists they must still keep their composure and put into practice their pre-season work.

“It is obvious the real test of our pre-season will be tomorrow, an official match, with pressure and over 40,000 people watching,” said Di Canio.

“That should help us, but sometimes, a euphoric situation can let you run everywhere and make you forget everything you have worked on.

“We have to make sure that we know how to deliver that clear identity.”

Di Canio does think it is an advantage to start the season at the Stadium of Light though, particularly with such an overhauled squad.

“It is good to be at home,” he added.

“We would have accepted it no problem if we’d been away.

“But if something goes wrong, that environment can help us to not lose.

“That’s the problem if you start away from home and you go 2-0 down, then you don’t have support.

“It’s not because we’re mentally weak, but it’s the first game and there’s many changes so it’s a real test.

“We don’t know whether we are going to win or lose, but from a psychological aspect it’s important.”