Love him or hate him, Paolo Di Canio is back in the Premier League after his appointment as Martin O’Neill’s successor at Sunderland. The eccentric Italian has 7 games in which to steer Sunderland away from relegation to the Championship but whether he succeeds in his task or not, there is one thing for sure, wherever the Black Cats go from now on will not be a dull place to be.
The Mackems might be about to go through a rather large culture shock; Di Canio and O’Neill are your proverbial chalk and cheese. It was felt by Ellis Short, the Sunderland chairman, that O’Neill, a measured and softly-spoken Irishman, had lost his magic touch and that the Italian could re-energise a group of players low on morale and confidence in their battle to beat the drop.
Already, the former Hammers man has grabbed the headlines and sparked debate over his political views. The OxStu rifles through the archive to look at the actions and quotes that have shaped the cult and the controversy:
10. ‘I am the manager and they are the fans. For this, they have to hope that I will be the manager in the future because it’s difficult to find another one like me…without me these players are average.’ On his possible exit from Swindon.
9. ‘I do what I want with my players in the technical area. See to me, no, only speak to them with the voice and don’t move the arms. No! That is not acceptable! I will move my body, my arms, my shoulder, my legs, they can’t send me off every time…No problem, I will win this league anyway.’ After kicking one of his Swindon players in the arse having just substituted him.
8. ‘And Di Canio is still down on his haunches, remonstrating with the West Ham bench and still I think trying to persuade them to substitute him.’ After having three stonewall penalty appeals turned down, Di Canio runs to the West Ham bench demanding his own substitution. After his request is refused he then plonks himself down on the field of play, arms folded, whilst the Bradford players dribble the ball around him. Not a direct Di Canio quote, but nevertheless belongs in the pantheon of Di Canio moments. ”I don’t play no more’…he was mad.’ Harry Redknapp, manager at the time, retells the story during an interview with SkySports. Di Canio demands to be substituted
7. ‘Fortunately, he’s out now even if he’s under contract. He’s never going to play with my team, never…He doesn’t deserve to wear a Swindon Town shirt in front of the fans.’ Di Canio tells the press that striker Leon Clarke will never play for the club again after a bust-up in the tunnel. Di Canio vs Leon Clarke
6. ‘I am a fascist, not a racist.’ Perhaps the most controversial quote of them all. Controversial not only because of its political implications but because Di Canio has since denied its validity. David Miliband stepped down from his position on the Sunderland board of directors because of the Italian’s political views, but this is a debate that is likely to go on, polarising opinion on the man. It is an issue that is unlikely to be resolved and may forever tarnish his reputation.
5. ‘Someone once said my ego is the size of an elephant. Maybe they were wrong. My ego is 10,000 times of the elephant.’ Paolo assures the BBC that he does not suffer from low self-esteem.
4. ‘If the 7 or 8 have not f****** bothered to give their best…****…sorry my language…during the game, I kick their ass!’ Di Canio loses his cool in the post-match press conference after his Swindon side conceded a late equaliser at Bristol Rovers. ‘I kick their ass!’
3. ‘My players are Chihuahuas. I only turn a shy Chihuahua into a proud Chihuahua, I cannot turn them into a Rottweiler.’ After an early season defeat by Macclesfield Town. Later on in the season Di Canio admitted his lack of expertise on dogs may have caused him to make a mistake. ‘My words were far from the truth, my expression was probably in a hot moment and sometimes you can confuse a Chihuahua with a very young Rottweiler…they were probably only 1 month old Rottweiler and they couldn’t bite and hurt the opponent but now they are adult Rottweilers and they can start to fight for the bone.’
2. ‘There is nothing wrong with substituting a goalkeeper. We are not talking about Cech, we are talking about Wes. League One! League Waaaaan?! Wes? Are we crazy?’ Before adding ‘…with all respect to Wes, because he is my player.’ Di Canio substituted his Swindon goalkeeper Wes Foderingham after his mistake had led to a goal. Foderingham reacted angrily, but was never going to win the battle of the egos. 1 minute 35 is particularly expressive. ‘League Waaaan!’
1. ‘But this is what I am. I am not worried about this.’ Later in his interview with the BBC. If ever a quote was to finally nail down the enigma, this would be the one.