‘Major changes at Sunderland’ warns Di Canio

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SUNDERLAND manager Paolo Di Canio has warned his players there will be wholesale changes next season whether they stay up or not.

The Black Cats edged a point closer to Barclays Premier League safety after a 1-1 home draw with Southampton on a day when victory would have guaranteed their top-flight status.

They are one of three sides – Aston Villa and Wigan are the others – who could still go down, although their fears will be over without kicking a ball on Tuesday night if the FA Cup-winning Latics lose at Arsenal in their game in hand. But regardless of what transpires when the Wearsiders bring the curtain down at Tottenham next weekend, there will be a major shake-up when they return after the summer.

Di Canio said: “Let me be sure that we are going to keep the club up, and then I am going to change everything. I am going to change everything.

“I’m not going to push all the players out, but I am going to keep the right players and bring in the right players if it is possible.

For eight fleeting minutes, Sunderland and their fans thought they had ended their relegation fears after full-back Phil Bardsley, only back in the team because of Craig Gardner’s suspension, blasted them into a 68th-minute lead.

The goal prompted Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino to make a double change, and his decision could hardly have worked out any better.

James Ward-Prowse and Jason Puncheon were the men to replace Jack Cork and Adam Lallana, and the pair dragged the visitors back into the game and to effective safety within four minutes of their introduction.

The former crossed for the latter, who forced the latest in a series of fine saves from Simon Mignolet with a powerful header, but Puncheon reacted first to thump the rebound into the roof of the net.

The draw took Di Canio’s tally since he arrived at the end of March to a relatively modest eight points from six games, but he insisted that represents a “miracle” considering the state in which he inherited his squad. The Italian said: “I have been part of this environment for five weeks and eight points in six games, in this situation, the players have performed a miracle for me.