Di Canio's appointment as successor to Martin O'Neill has been the subject of much debate this week, with former foreign secretary David Miliband quitting as vice-chairman of Sunderland over the 44-year-old's past statements professing to be a "fascist but not a racist".
Di Canio insisted he does not support "the ideology of fascism" as he seeks to mastermind Sunderland's Barclays Premier League survival. That quest begins on Sunday against Chelsea. "I can only speak highly of him (Di Canio)," Terry said.
"I played against him when he was at Charlton. His movement was fantastic and I found he was just a real nice guy on the pitch. I was only young at the time when I was playing against him when he was at West Ham and sides like that.
"He always spoke to me after games and said 'listen, maybe you should do this and do that' which was really nice at the time. A two-word sentence was enough and something I learned from.
"He always gave a battle. If there was a little tussle he'd get up and shake your hand after and that kind of thing. So very fair, very passionate, as we've seen with his character, and his ability was fantastic. He was a credit."
Terry, who was not asked directly about Di Canio's views, anticipates the Italian's arrival will galvanise the Black Cats.
"He's certainly going to have them up for it," said Terry, who may return to the bench after starting in Thursday night's 3-1 Europa League quarter-final first leg defeat of Rubin Kazan.
The FA Cup holders have a place in the semi-final against Manchester City and travel to Moscow next Thursday seeking to confirm their last-four spot in the Europa League, with Terry believing winning results in the Premier League are now imperative.
"We really need to push on in the league," Terry said. "Realistically he (interim boss Rafael Benitez) probably can't rest too many in the league. We must win and keep winning games in the league and really push, because that is what this club feeds off, is the Champions League. We must be involved in that."
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