Paolo Di Canio

Looking back

US fan Jonathan Sager reflects on another season.

It was a relatively good football season for me.  My three favorite teams (Borrussia Dortmund, Juventus and of course Sunderland) all gave me things to be happy about this year.  

Dortmund conquered Real Madrid on the way to the Champions League final, Juventus secured another Serie A title and Sunderland secured top-flight status.

Coming off a very promising season under MON we had hoped the signings of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher would be the offensive push the squad would need to challenge in the top 10.  These added to the talent we already knew we had seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.

However through the ups and downs of the season, it was a difficult one for the fans.  We held on hoping each game would be better than the rest.  We weren’t sure if it would work out.

But as we can see, it did work out.  We survived.  We are looking at another year in the Barclays Premier League and it doesn’t appear to be just any year.  We have a completely different attitude from years previous.  Things are being done differently. 

Since the close of the season, I’ve reflected on the changes that were made in route to survival for the Lads and the major change is of course the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as the head coach.  Of course the talk was that this “wasn’t going to work out”, “he’s unproven,” etc, etc. 

There’s an infusion in this club.  Passion.  It starts with the head man and his dirty knees on the sidelines.  His interviews.  His rules aimed to make players focus on the team rather than outside distractions.  The push to gain an edge in fitness.  He has a strong hand, but his hand is firm and he is leading us through the methods that he knows can make this team successful.

As a fan of Dortmund, I can tell you that PDC reminds me of a certain Jurgen Klopp from the Champions League runners-up.  In the March 2013 issue of FourFourTwo, the magazine showed a track suit wearing Klopp pointing with the words “Lauf! Lauf! Lauf!” above his head.  Run, Run, Run!  

From all the interviews of PDC we know that he wants everyone to run.  Get in shape, run people off the ball, pressure the ball, make the other team tired, get in their faces, make them make mistakes.  This is what also made Dortmund successful. 

In the article Robert Lewandowski (who became the first player to score four goals in a Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid in April) is quoted as saying “The pressing game is important for us, it is our strength and we work on it all the time. We train it constantly."

This mentality of pressing and running players off the ball is what PDC is trying to bring to this squad.  The idea behind the mentality is that if you can pressure someone deep and they lose possession, you can immediately being your attack.

Watching Klopp on the sidelines during the CL final against Munich made me think of PDC and the way he was so emotional during the Newcastle game.

This makes me think of how PDC reminds me of new Chelsea man Jose Mourinho’s passion on the sidelines.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Jose, because he is so passionate about the game.  He wants to win, and you can see that Paolo has this too.

I’m very optimistic about our future under Paolo.  He is going about changing things from top to bottom and creating a club of professionals who know that their job is to play football.  

I’m excited for the transfer market to see which players come in.  I’m excited for the start of the season.  I think PDC will be a man to lead us in the right direction. Now is the time to look upwards.

Jonathan Sager