CARLOS CUELLAR has backed Paolo Di Canio fitness regime to reap dividends, as the Italian prepares to begin his first pre-season in charge of the Black Cats.
The bulk of Sunderland’s squad will return to work at the Academy of Light tomorrow for the start of the pre-season campaign, albeit the club’s internationals have been given extra time off due to their exertions during the summer.
Di Canio has already vowed to use the time before the Premier League gets underway to knock his players into shape, with double sessions likely to dominate throughout pre-season.
But that schedule has been welcomed by centre-half Cuellar, who believes it will give Sunderland an added advantage next season after Di Canio’s methods were only able to make a limited impact following his appointment last March.
Cuellar told the Echo: “The way we’ll approach this pre-season, I think it will make us a lot stronger physically.
“In the last few games of last season, you could see the players pick up little injuries or cramp because we were working so hard to win every match.
“Sometimes, you give more than 100 per cent and we didn’t have that extra fitness we needed.
“I don’t think we’re going to have that problem next year.”
Cuellar was heartened by the early signs from Di Canio’s reign, but says it was tough for the head coach to drastically alter the fitness of the side after taking charge with only seven games of the season remaining.
But the Spaniard believes pre-season will prove invaluable for the head coach – both in terms of improving Sunderland’s fitness and developing the side’s playing style.
“It was difficult in that part of the season he came in,” added the 31-year-old.
“It’s impossible to make much difference physically because we’d played too many games.
“We’d been through a pre-season and the only thing he could do was try to get a bit more out of the players.
“In the way we are going to approach pre-season, it will be different.
“If you looked at the team over the last few games, then we didn’t play well sometimes, but there were positives to take.
“The look of the team will look much better after this.”