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The Black Cats manager, who guided the club to safety after the sacking of Martin O'Neill, has hailed the benefits of conditioning his players and working hard in training

Paolo Di Canio has attributed Sunderland’s Premier League survival to the emphasis on physical preparation he put in place after his appointment with just seven league matches remaining.

The Black Cats had slumped to a run of eight matches without a win before manager Martin O’Neill was dismissed, but under the Italian went on to win two matches and draw a further two to finish three points clear of the relegation zone.

And the former Swindon Town boss has lauded the benefits of having a fit and well-drilled squad, crediting hard work on the training ground as the reason behind his side's late upturn in form.

6/1 Sunderland are 6/1 with BetVictor to be relegated next season
"It is all about preparation," he told The Shields Gazette. "I believe we saw an improvement in the last few weeks of the season and I believe we will see it even more next season.

"People said, how can you improve at this stage of the season? There were many ex-professionals saying, why is Di Canio talking about fitness?

"And of course you can’t change things straight away. But what you can do is, instead of two very light training sessions, is have five very heavy sessions.

"That doesn’t mean you can see a difference in the first, or even second week. But by the third week, you can see, and measure the changes in physical condition. Against Stoke – 10 versus 11 – you saw that."

Di Canio went on to outline the meticulous work that goes into preparing his players at the Stadium of Light and revealed: "We monitor every training session with the GPS system, and the statistics we got showed a big change.

"Every player covers approximately nine kilometres during a game, with 1.6km of that at a high intensity over 25 yards.

"The GPS system shows trends. During the training session, individually, they used to cover 2.6km, or 2.6km including the warm-up. Now we cover 7.5km – even in the light sessions. That’s nearly three times.

"But how can you run 9km against your opponents if you’re not doing something similar in training? The intense moments previously were 230 metres, now we cover 1,200 metres.

"How can you do it in the game if you don’t prepare yourself during the week? You cannot be ready. If you try, you get injured, or are tired after 10 minutes, so that is why we place such store on working so hard in training."