LONDON // Paolo Di Canio attacked the lack of discipline in his Sunderland team and vowed that he will do everything he can to clean up the club before next season.
The Italian seemed relatively happy with his side's performance in a 1-0 loss at Tottenham, but was clearly furious with the behaviour of Phil Bardsley in particular.
The full-back was left out of the squad after being pictured on a website lying on the floor in a casino surrounded by £50 (Dh285) notes in the early hours of Wednesday morning, apparently after celebrating Wigan Athletic's defeat at Arsenal, which meant Sunderland will remain a Premier League side next season.
"How I can play a player that probably is blurry for three, four days after what's happened?" Di Canio asked, his tone furious, although this was more measured deconstruction than rant.
"More important, I want to deliver a very clear message that I have wanted to deliver since the beginning. There is no excuse to behave like he did."
It is vital, Di Canio said, to set an example.
"Always, I give a second chance to the people," he said, admitting he is not sure whether Bardsley has a future at the club. "We are talking about somebody 31 years of age, not a kid. I'm not here to be a priest, to convince the people to be different, but to talk about my club and my team. We have a fantastic academy.
"If we don't punish this kind of behaviour, how do they grow up? Thinking they can laugh about what they saw on the website picture?
"Maybe they think it's fantastic to be like a gangster. But what mentality are we going to deliver? Sometimes I discovered here at Sunderland - and at many other places, unfortunately - there is always a fantastic Christmas box [of chocolates]. Then inside ... nothing - a chocolate that is already eaten."
Di Canio also said he had fined seven players for breaches of discipline this week and another player, who was unavailable for the match-day squad, was facing disciplinary action for failing to turn up at the Academy of Light for training, claiming he had food-poisoning, but then leaving his phone turned off so he couldn't be contacted by the club doctor.