Football: 'Boring' and 'rotten', struggling Sunderland under fire despite fine Cup runs

A photo of former Sunderland manager Paulo Di Canio at a fixture against  West Bromwich Albion on Nov 15, 2013. Paolo di Canio described two of his former players as "rotten", while current boss Gus Poyet completed a withering weekend
A photo of former Sunderland manager Paulo Di Canio at a fixture against  West Bromwich Albion on Nov 15, 2013. Paolo di Canio described two of his former players as "rotten", while current boss Gus Poyet completed a withering weekend assessment after being left "bored" by their laboured FA Cup win over fifth-tier Kidderminster Town. -- FILE PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

(REUTERS) - Former Sunderland manager Paolo di Canio described two of his former players as "rotten", while current boss Gus Poyet completed a withering weekend assessment after being left "bored" by their laboured FA Cup win over fifth-tier Kidderminster Town.

Italian di Canio has not been reluctant to share his feelings about certain members of the English Premier League strugglers who were believed to be behind his sacking in September after only 13 league matches in charge.

A player revolt was understood to be his undoing with midfielder Lee Cattermole and fullback Phil Bardsley, both deemed surplus to requirements by him, thought to be among a group that demanded his sacking by chairman Ellis Short.

"Those two players were rotten," di Canio, who helped Sunderland avoid relegation last season, told The Sun on Sunday British newspaper.

"The most unprofessional players I ever worked with.

"It's no surprise these players were kicked out of my plans. The reason Sunderland stayed up at the end of last season was because Cattermole was injured and Bardsley played very little."

The duo were reinstated to the side under Uruguayan Poyet, who took charge in October and has steered the club to the League Cup final and within one point of safety in the league.

Poyet opted to make several changes to his starting line-up for the FA Cup clash, with 10 players rested after Wednesday's penalty shoot-out victory over Manchester United in the League Cup semi-final second leg, following a 3-3 aggregate result after .

Combative midfielder Cattermole did start in the 1-0 victory over the lowly opposition at the Stadium of Light on Saturday that sent them through to the fifth round, where they host Premier League rivals Southampton.

The Black Cats made hard work of their task, though, with Poyet happy for the match to be erased from his memory.

"I won't be watching this game again," he was quoted as saying by British media on Monday. "The game was boring, very boring and it was difficult to watch. I don't want to analyse it.

"We couldn't cross properly and we couldn't have a shot on target. That is nothing to do with positions, that is all to do with you, the ball and quality."

Bardsley did not make the matchday squad, with one eye presumably on Wednesday's key league clash with Stoke City, where victory could lift Sunderland out of the relegation zone for the first time since August.

Captain John O'Shea was able to rest as an unused substitute against Kidderminster but the Irishman did not escape di Canio's thoughts.

"I don't like people who, when they speak to you, don't look into your eyes," the Italian said.

"He should say sorry to some of his team-mates for the many times he came into my office to say something unfavourable about them.

"This is the same person that also came to me when I first took o

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Barclays Premier League - The Hawthorns - 21/9/13Sunderland manager Paulo Di Canio

ver and said things about (previous manager Martin) O'Neill."

Former Swindon Town manager di Canio, who was critical of O'Neill's methods when assuming his first role in charge of a Premier League club, was also critical of striker Steven Fletcher.

The Scotland international has struggled for goals this term, netting just three, with di Canio arguing the 26-year-old should be more professional.

"I don't like people fooling around when we're having a serious discussion about strategy," the former Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, West Ham and Celtic forward said.

"I don't like people who laugh when they keep missing the goal in training or miss a tackle that leads to conceding a goal."

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