FABRIZIO Piccareta is studying for his UEFA-A licence, to make sure he is properly qualified to be a Premier League number two to Paolo Di Canio next season.
The 47-year-old former Inter Milan youth coach has been in Scotland this month taking a course to bring him up to scratch for next season, so he can give the best possible support to a boss he is certain will soon be recognised as one of the best managers in football.
And while the last few months have been a steep learning curve for Di Canio, they have been even steeper for the Italian’s assistant, Piccareta, who tasted life in the Premier League for the first time at the end of last season.
“They were crazy days, coming from League One to the Premier League,” he reflected. “At the beginning it was a bit of a shock.
“The step up for me especially was massive – I don’t have a background at the top level – but once we settled in, we found the way to do our jobs properly and got the results we expected.
“I am in Scotland to study now because I need the ‘A’ Licence – at Swindon I only needed the UEFA B.
“But now at Sunderland we need to upgrade and I am enjoying it.
“I am happy to be where, I am because my aim is to improve and become the best in my position.
“And my aim is to stay with Paolo.
“I am convinced he will be a top manager.
“He is already, but I mean at the very top level, and very soon.
“I’ve never met someone so committed and focused on his job.
“And he has the skills and knowledge to become one of the best.”
Piccareta arrived at Sunderland as part of a support team for the Italian which included goalkeeping coach Domenico Doardo and insists the backroom staff were confident their leader would guide the Black Cats to safety.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise,” he said.
“That’s the thing about Paolo that some people don’t understand – that he has massive knowledge, as well as a big personality.
“Sometimes you only see his emotional side but I can guarantee you he is very deep thinking.
“His attention to detail is unbelievable, as are his commitment and professionalism.
“In our partnership, yes, I am the calm one – that is my nature – but people ask if I have to calm him down at times and, no, that’s not the case.
“It’s not my task, because he doesn’t need it.
“It can look like an explosion of emotion but he chooses to do that – that is his strength.
“And it’s genuine; it’s not theatrical
“What is theatrical, is some managers putting on a show of composure even if inside they are burning up but they don’t want to look like they are losing composure.
“Paolo is honest – honest to the people, the fans, the players, himself.”
That honesty extended to Di Canio laying the law down firmly towards the end of last season and letting his players know exactly what he would and would not tolerate.
Seven players received heavy fines but what he regarded as basic rule-breaking and in the case of Phil Bardsley, caught celebrating in a casino on a night-out, there was scathing public condemnation.
“Discipline is something he is big on,” pointed out Piccareta, by way of explanation.
“He believes players must always be professional.
“He sees no difference between the training ground, the pitch, or the rest of your life – he wants to see discipline.
“I was as disappointed as him because we work as a team and share the same philosophy.
“The right way is to be professional, 100 per cent of the time, starting from training to your private life, because your private life can affect your game.”