PAOLO Di Canio has called on his players to build on their second-half performance against Arsenal when they visit West Brom this weekend.
The Black Cats’ boss believes the first signs were there on Saturday of the new Sunderland he is trying to create, symbolised by the way they produced a spirited comeback against the Gunners.
But he says it is important that his side build on that at The Hawthorns and don’t become distracted by a start to the season which has seen just one point taken from a possible 12.
“The players are intelligent and I don’t think they will be overly worried about the league position,” he suggested.
“Many times I have experienced at being at the bottom of the table in my playing career and you just get on with it.
“We will be working hard to get things right in the next few weeks.
“We have to light a fire under ourselves though.
“We have to dig out more passion and we have to take that into the West Brom game.
“Playing against West Brom will be a challenge because they have an established side who know their system and are dangerous at home.
“So we have to be prepared for that game and be intelligent in the way we play.”
But Di Canio also underlined that he expects Sunderland to come on strongly this season, despite their disappointing start to the campaign.
And he has predicted that even if the club’s position gets worse in the coming weeks, with visits of Liverpool and Manchester United to the Stadium of Light, things will eventually get better.
“Of course you can lose games to Arsenal, to Manchester United, but we have to work hard in training to improve,” he said.
“We have to put in the hours and concentrate on the long-term because there were good signs there against Arsenal – it is not easy to play as well as we did against them in the second half.
“We didn’t lose our power or our belief – we did not sink.
“The lads were very good because it is not easy and we looked like a team that had played a lot together and that’s a good sign.
“After 20 games, if you are still at the bottom of the table and you have only 10 points, then you can start to get worried.
“But, at this moment in time, it is still very early in the season and we are working hard to gel.
“This is a normal situation, but we are putting down plans for the long term and I am confident.
“I was clear before the game that I would accept defeat if we played well against Arsenal – there’s no shame in losing to Arsenal – and I was happier after the Arsenal game than the Crystal Palace game because I was happier with our performance in the second half.
“Considering we had so many players playing together for the first time against Arsenal, it was encouraging.
“So I’m positive. We still need to be going out and getting good results.
“But fans can be happy because we are going to win more games than last year.
“Yes, we will drop points, especially in the early stages where we are gelling as a side and playing the top teams, but people will see, as the season goes on, that this side will come together.
“There will come a time where it wins three and four games in a row, I am sure because we have the ability to play good football if we keep going and work together.
“We have plenty of players now and good players too, and they are learning how to play our system.”