Di Canio prepared to 'slap' Wickham: He thinks he is a Playboy model

The former Ipswich striker has managed just nine starts in two frustrating years at the Stadium of Light and the Italian is ready to take action to unlock his potential

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio says striker Connor Wickham needs a "slap" to remind him that he is a Premier League footballer and not a "Playboy model".

After making an impact as a teenager at Ipswich, the 20-year-old has struggled since making a £8 million switch to the Stadium of Light in June 2011, making just nine starts and scoring two goals.

And Di Canio is now keen to get the best out of Wickham, who was called up to the England Under-21 squad for the summer European Championships, and hopes he can unlock the potential that saw Sunderland land the striker's signature.

10/1 Connor Wickham is 10/1 with Coral to open the scoring in Tottenham v Sunderland
"Maybe, with this guy, I have to slap his face a little bit," Di Canio admitted to the Daily Mirror. "I’m talking about motivating him in a genuine way because he has so much potential.

"But ­sometimes he comes in and he seems to be looking around saying, ‘Where am I?’ I want to say, ‘You are on the football pitch, with the grass'.

"He is an intelligent guy, but once he seemed to be complaining because it was wet. I told him that is typical for this area.

"Maybe if he doesn’t go out in a small T-shirt when it is wet and cold, he won’t be complaining. I have told him, 'No small T-shirts'. I don't want him to be missing a couple of games because he is a Playboy model. We are footballers, that is our job."