Newcastle v Sunderland

Di Canio boosted by returning duo

April 11, 2013
By Kristan Heneage

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has been handed a double boost with the news that Danny Graham and Carlos Cuellar are fit to face Newcastle on Sunday.

Carlos Cuellar Sunderland header
PA PhotosSunderland are set to welcome back defender Carlos Cuellar for the Tyne-Wear derby

• Randall: Remember Nov 18, 2000

• Di Canio: Players must go to war
• Pardew worried about Toon fatigue

Graham only made the bench in the Wearsiders' last Premier League outing against Chelsea, while Cuellar missed the game entirely with an ankle complaint.

Having responded well to treatment earlier this week, however, both players have now returned to training ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby, with Di Canio only left sweating on the fitness of young striker Connor Wickham, who he expects to be passed fit for Sunday's clash.

"Danny hurt himself on the training ground on Saturday and that is why he did not play in the game," he told the Sunderland Echo. "But he is fine now and it is good to have him back. I don't expect a problem with Connor. I expect him to be available on Sunday.

"When I got here, I had heard he had an injury that could have kept him out of the side for the rest of the season, but he is fully recovered. Last week, he did a fantastic job on his rehabilitation and he has joined in with full training this week.

"He has done everything with us - technical, tactical, high intensity, the little games – so that is great for us. Both Carlos and Danny completed the whole session."

Di Canio also revealed hearing the Sunderland fans chant his name on Sunday was one of the proudest moments of his career.

"Can I tell you that - and it is difficult sometimes for me to express how I feel - can I tell you that it was a very emotional moment for me," he told the Sunderland Echo. "I tell always what I feel - and sometimes that provides a problem for me.

"But it was a very emotional moment for me. I did not follow too many articles in the papers last week, but I tried to make sure that I knew what was going and what was being said. And I understood that it might be that the fans were split over me and that made me very sad.

"But when I heard them singing my name before the game at Stamford Bridge, and especially afterwards when they were singing it again, I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. In that moment, in the moment I heard them, it only increased my desire to do well for this club.

Di Canio added: "I have a huge appetite for this job, for doing well at Sunderland, but hearing the fans, after the week we had had, has only made me more determined. Now I will sacrifice a part of my life for this club. I was always going to work hard for the club, for the board, but to have the fans behind me means so much to me.

"I know football is a business, but the support of the fans has only increased my inner motivation and for that I thank them. I have promised them 26 hours a day, but maybe now I have to make it 27!"