Gardner dimisses Di Canio’s Sunderland fitness worries

Midfielder Craig Gardner has rubbished new manager Paolo Di Canio’s claims that he and his Sunderland team mates are out of shape, according to the Daily Mirror.

The Italian boss has questioned the fitness of his new side, describing the players as “not the fittest in the world” after taking over from Martin O’Neill at the end of last month.

As a result, Di Canio is executing a gruelling training schedule to sharpen up the relegation-threatened Black Cats but Gardner insists that Sunderland are prepared for the Premier League run-in.

Gardner said: “There’s been people talking and chatting about this, but it’s a load of rubbish. The gaffer’s come in and it’s the same. Every football club has to work hard. We’re working hard – we have to if we want to stay in the Premier League.

We work hard every day. No matter what manager comes in, we’re professional footballers. I don’t know where this has come from, that Paolo Di Canio will work us harder, because at any club, there’s only one place you’ll be found out, and that’s on the pitch.

The 26-year-old has experienced relegation from England’s top league with Birmingham City in 2011 and will be keen to make sure his side aren’t in the bottom three again this year.

But Sunderland are undoubtedly in danger of dropping to the Championship – Di Canio’s men are 17th in the Premier League table, level on points with 18th-placed Wigan Athletic who have played a game less.

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