Spurs v SAFC

Paolo will make his mark - Bennett

Former skipper on pre-season training.

Gary Bennett says a full pre-season will allow Paolo Di Canio to fully roll out his blueprint for Sunderland’s approach to the game.

Di Canio stepped into the breach with seven games to play and succeeded in his mission to keep the club in the Barclays Premier League.

The squad will return to training next week and the Italian will have 45 days to work with his players before the opening game of the season.

Bennett says that time will allow Di Canio to expand his scope having previously had to look game-to-game to ensure enough points were banked to secure a seventh successive top-flight season.

“Paolo will look at systems and how he wants to play and stamp his authority on the team,” said Bennett, who made 444 appearances during 11 years on Wearside.

“Everyone will have to come up to scratch. He’ll be looking at how players handle the ball in tight situations, how they pass it and get from A to B.

“I think he wants to play attacking football given his background as a player. He likes players to go out and express themselves and make things happen.

“But they will have to put a shift in and know how to win games. That will be drilled into them.”

Bennett added: “He has always just had to focus on the next game because he had a job to do, which was to keep Sunderland in the league.

“Now he is able to look ahead and make changes.”

Bennett is a veteran of a few pre-seasons himself having spent almost 20 years in the game.

And he says ball work is now much more prevalent earlier on in the process due to the improved conditioning of modern-day players, making endurance runs and long-distance treks a thing of the past.

“Pre-season has changed a lot over the years, particularly so from when I was playing,” he said.

“We used the time to get ourselves back into shape after a six to eight-week break and we wouldn’t see a ball for at least a week.

“We’d run up and down sand dunes and things like that, but it’s different now. The lads come back fitter and look after themselves.”