Sunderland players do not fear me, says Di Canio

The Italian insists it is not possible for his squad to be afraid of him and believes fitness and tactical awareness will be key to the club's upcoming Premier League campaign
Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio insists his players are not afraid of him.

The Italian succeeded Martin O'Neill at the Stadium of Light in March and guided the club to safety in their final seven matches.

Before the end of last season, Di Canio revealed that he fined seven players for "unacceptable behaviour", a decision which was met with a warning from the Professional Footballers' Association.

9/2 Sunderland are 9/2 with bet365 to be relegated
But the 45-year-old insists his disciplinary measures are not feared by members of his squad.

"The dressing room is like a family. There are some quarrels, but when children lose the way from the road I put them back," Di Canio told La Gazzetta Dello Sport.

"Players cannot be afraid of the coach, it's not possible. I am not one that kills people, I only train them."

Di Canio maintains that the fitness of his squad will be key to their new campaign and has revealed his players have been developing their tactical knowledge during their pre-season.

"We are not a top team but we have a good team and to reduce the gap with those above us we have to resort to tactics and techniques," he said.

"But above all the physical condition is essential. We are managing differently from others, there are some things to improve, the athleticism is crucial to compete at the highest level."