PAOLO Di Canio has promised he will not allow cliques to develop in his newly-assembled League of Nations squad.
In a week in which the number of foreigners at Premier League clubs came under fire from Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, the Sunderland head coach admitting that blending his squad into a tight-knit group remained one of his top priorities.
And the Italian will face the biggest challenge of all the Premier League managers, now that Sunderland have more nationalities in their squad than any other club in the league.
He said: “It is obvious to me that how well we do this season will depend to some extent upon how tight a unit we are as a squad.
“If we are a united group we can achieve a lot more and for that reason we have to mix and share as much as possible.
“Obviously it is going to be difficult because there has been so much change in our club but this was change that needed to happen and now we have to deal with the new situation.
“We have done a lot in terms of getting players to share rooms and mix together at the same table.
“And we will do more.
“It is only natural that players who speak the same language will want to speak that language and that’s OK.
“But together as a group of players we must speak English and it is important that the players who do not speak English learn as quickly as possible.”
Di Canio says that while he is looking for the team to gel on the pitch, just as great a challenge lies in getting them to bond completely off it.
He said: “There are many different languages but the difficulty is not on the pitch - where players understand and communicate through body language - it is about getting that togetherness off the pitch.
“But that is coming and we will continue to work on it because it is important.
“I’m lucky that our new signings are all intelligent people and they are joining intelligent players already at the club and we are spending a lot of time in each other’s company so that we can build confidence in each other.
“These are the early stages, these are the things you have to work on.
“It is hard work, it takes time, but it will come and I will make sure that we get that togetherness and not split up into little groups.
“Before and after training we now spend more time together.
“We don’t arrive at the last minute and leave at the first opportunity any more.
“We stay and we talk - English with French, Irish with Sweden and so on - and we are working hard to create the best environment we can.”