Leighton James column: If only Paolo Di Canio was still in charge
IF only Paolo Di Canio was still in charge at Sunderland.
Even looking in from the outside, it was pretty clear that Sunderland's players were not impressed by the Italian and did not want to play for him.
If he was the Black Cats' manager now, Swansea City's game this weekend would have looked a lot easier on paper than it does.
Now Sunderland have a new manager, and we all know the effect that can have on a team.
Di Canio has been replaced by Gus Poyet, who has stated this week that he is coming to Wales for a win.
I am not surprised.
Unless Poyet has an instant impact at the Stadium of Light, after all, Sunderland will be facing a long, hard battle against relegation.
They are already six points adrift of safety and, while these are still early days in the season, that is a big gap which needs to be closed quickly.
Sunderland can stay up, there's no doubt about that, but Poyet needs points from day one.
His new team will be battling hard from the outset and that's why this game will be much harder than it might have been for Swansea. It is a massive fixture. It is big for Sunderland and their new boss, but it is also huge for Swansea given this long run without a home league win.
There has only been one of them since the Capital One Cup final, and that is not good enough. Swansea's strength in the Premier League has been having a solid home record and then throwing in some excellent performances away from home.
That has to be the same again this season, and games like Sunderland — and West Ham at home next week — are the type that need to be won.
I am not too concerned about the home form right now, for there have been plenty of difficult games since Newcastle were beaten back in March.
In fact if David Moyes was Swansea manager, he probably be moaning about how hard the start to the season has been. Michael Laudrup has just got on with it and, while I think he is trying to adapt Swansea's game a little bit this season, I am confident the results will soon start coming at home.
Some of Laudrup's summer signings suggested to me that he knew teams were getting used to playing Swansea at the Liberty, and that he wanted different players who could pose different threats.
But it is not as if Swansea are suddenly going to start playing route-one football or anything like that.
Things are just being tweaked by the manager, and I am a great believer that cream always comes to the top eventually. There is enough quality in this Swansea squad to emulate last season's league finish.
I am not so sure about Sunderland — and I can't say I'm surprised about how tough their start has been.
Just look at Di Canio's track record. When he was Swindon manager he seemed to be clashing with players all the time, like when he took his goalkeeper off after 20 minutes in one game.
Some would say that is professional, but I would call it amateurish. You just don't do that.
If you have a problem with a player or a player's performance, you tell them in the dressing room at half-time or after a game.
Nothing changed with Di Canio when he took over at Sunderland.
They lost at Crystal Palace the other week and he came out publicly and slaughtered John O'Shea, one of his senior pros and a man who has a cupboard full of medals thanks to his time at Manchester United.
You got the impression the Sunderland players never felt comfortable playing for Di Canio, and in the end he paid for his own arrogance.
Players have to feel happy with a manager, and you never see the best bosses having a go at their players through the media.
Now Poyet has to try to turn things around, and one thing you can say is that he cannot do any worse than his predecessor. As I said before, it is a shame for Swansea that Di Canio isn't around anymore.