FORMER Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has blamed the club’s recruitment set-up for the brevity of his Stadium of Light reign.
Di Canio is keen to return to management, just over a year after being sacked by Sunderland, with the Italian applying for the vacant position at Bolton earlier this month, before the Trotters appointed Neil Lennon to the hotseat.
And the ex-West Ham striker was back in the public eye today after discussing his Sunderland reign in a television interview.
Di Canio, sacked just five games into last season, says it was the calibre of the 14 players brought to the club by the dismissed pair of ex-director of football Roberto De Fanti and former chief scout Valentino Angeloni which brought about the end of his Sunderland reign just six months into the job.
In the summer of 2013 - after keeping Sunderland in the Premier League - Di Canio claims he wanted to sign predominantly British players, but De Fanti and Angeloni concentrated on the Continental market instead.
“My big mistake was to accept to work in the way I did,” Di Canio told Sky Sports.
“Just for clarity, the 14 players that arrived at Sunderland during the summer, not one of those was brought by me.
“De Fanti and Valentino Angeloni were the two responsible for that technical error, with the maximum support from the chairman, which is Ellis Short.
“But I didn’t bring in one player.
“I asked for them to bring in 80 per cent of British footballers.
“To avoid relegation after a big revolution of bringing in 12, 13, 14 players, I really believe we needed eight or nine British footballers who knew how to compete in this league.
“Do you know if we signed one British footballer? Not one.
“The only two that really made their stamp were two weeks after we started the season and with three days (of the window) to go, I said if you can’t bring in two British footballers, we have to bring in two players who already had English experience.
“When they told me one could be Ki (Sung-Yueng) from Swansea and (Fabio) Borini - I knew them - I said straightaway.
“They had three or four years of British football in their hearts.
“It wasn’t by coincidence that they were the crucial players who kept this club up.”
Inevitably, Di Canio was asked about Sunderland’s 8-0 mauling at Southampton yesterday.
He was careful to avoid criticising successor Gus Poyet, but says he would ensure both players and coaching staff made sacrifices to work hard on the training ground after such a result.
Di Canio added: “I knew some players there. It’s easy sometimes to judge.
“But I’m not talking about Poyet because he has his own philosophy.
“In general, it’s happened to me in the past.
“It’s not a simple fact to go in the next day and work hard. That’s the minimum.
“But you have to pay some way and say lads, we get up early tomorrow, watch the game and feel the pain.
“I’m sure the players were very down, but just because it happened, it’s not enough to say sorry.
“We have to pay something.
“You have to put in some strict rules to help us not repeat these kind of things.
“But before punishing the players, I punish myself.
“I’m not talking about Sunderland; in general.”