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The Black Cats manager dropped out of the top-flight with the Hammers a decade ago, and is using the experience to make sure the same does not happen with the Wearside club

Sunderland manager Paolo di Canio has recalled how "devastated" he was at being relegated with West Ham in 2003 as he looks to save his current club from suffering the same fate this season.

Di Canio's side currently sit three points clear of safety with two games remaining as fixtures against Southampton and Tottenham await the Black Cats.

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The 44-year-old Italian recalled the cavalier attitude of some of the West Ham players during that relegation season, vowing to ensure that his current players, unlike some of the Hammers back then, are entirely aware of what is at stake.

"It was a bitter experience for me. I was devastated. I never imagined I would have a moment like that at West Ham with so many talented players. I was devastated for everyone, but some of the players did not care," he told The Mirror.

"I make sure they [the squad] know what it means if this club were to go down. I remind them. I tell the youngest and the oldest ‘don’t take this too ­lightly’ because, for some of my players, they don’t care because they are selfish when they are young."

Di Canio went on to admit that relegation would mean he had failed as manager of Sunderland, and also used the prospect of continuing to face historic and star-studded teams, such as Manchester United and Chelsea, as motivation to stay up.

"I don’t want to think about relegation. When I came here it was because I thought I could keep this club up. So if we go down it means I’ve failed my mission," he continued.

"I say: ‘Show you want to go to ­Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea. Who says you’ll have another chance to play in the Premier League? That should be enough motivation to give your best’."

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