JOHN O’Shea will come straight back into Sunderland’s side to face West Brom on Saturday, with Paolo Di Canio rubbishing any suggestion that grudges might be held after the skipper’s sending off at Crystal Palace.
The Republic of Ireland international was red-carded at Selhurst Park after mis-reading the bounce of the ball and conceding a penalty which changed the course of the game in the hosts favour – the Eagles eventually running out 3-1 winners.
Di Canio did not spare the skipper’s blushes in the wake of defeat – pointing out that O’Shea had also made a costly mistake in his previous game, conceding a needless free-kick from which Southampton equalised.
But the Italian has made it clear that O’Shea will remain one of the first names on his team-sheet.
He told the Echo: “I am entitled to criticise John for making mistakes but that does not mean I don’t rate him.
“He is my best player, he is my captain.
“I said what I felt about his performance when I was asked a direct question about him after the Palace game and I gave an honest answer.
“But it is crazy to think that all of a sudden his position is in question – I don’t change my opinion of him from one game to another – he remains a very good player.
“He has my respect.
“He misses a game because of the red card but for me it is not even a question that he might not be coming back into the team.
“And he’s a big part of my plans this season, he will be playing against Manchester United in the next few weeks when they come to the Stadium of Light because I see him as a big part of my first team.”
O’Shea’s return is likely to be one of a handful of changes made for the game against West Brom this weekend – Emanuele Giaccherini has a chance of recovering from a hamstring strain in time for the match while Craig Gardner impressed as a second-half substitute and might keep his place in the side.
But Di Canio will once again be looking for a promising performance, regardless of who gets picked.
He said: “We are a new team, new players, and we are working hard to progress so for me the most important thing is to see regular improvement on the pitch.
“I’m sure that with the players we now have and the system we will play that we will eventually go on to win plenty of games, so I’m not worried.
“I’ll not be too worried if it takes time for us to gel – although I hope we can pick up our first league win soon.
“But I am looking for good signs, for signs that things are starting to come together more and eventually the fans will see that because we have intelligent players and we are working very hard.”