After the disappointment of relegation from Division I to II, supporters of Swindon Town FC have a spring in their step now that the club owners have given Italian Paolo Di Canio his first chance to manage in the UK.
Di Canio comes with a chequered history, a facist salute to the adoring but ultra right wing fans at Lazio and then a number of fiery incidents when playing for Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham, including pushing over referee Paul Alcock in a game between Wednesday and Arsenal when he was given a red card for aiming an off the ball kick at Martin Keown. A lengthy ban followed and his behaviour is remembered.
It was brought up in the Swindon Town press conference on 23 May to announce his appointment when Di Canio signed his contract in front of the cameras. the 42 year old says he is more mature and calmer person than in his playing days. He said, “I am not the same Paolo Di Canio of 10 years ago.”
“I have matured. I have two girls, one is 19 years old and one is 13, so this is the time to calm down. If you want to become manager you need to have some character like you did in the past, but you have to be cool, help your players to work in the best way. You cannot be rash like you were, perhaps, on the pitch.”
Di Canio accepts that his emotions ran high on the pitch and that the experience will allow him to school the players in his team to focus on winning games. “I had the wrong attitude in some situations, but you must learn from your mistakes and because of what I did before I am determined to help the players not to do the same.
“I can always understand the players’ anger if they can see what they feel is a bad decision. You cannot do like I did in the past, of course.”
Swindon Town has lost out on the support of the GMB union and a few supporters say they won’t return to the County Ground because of concerns about Di Canio’s political beliefs. However he promises attractive, attacking football and appealed to people who object to his appointment to reconsider their view and said the club needs support from all quarters. “I am sorry because, of course, I would like to have a nice atmosphere for the best of the club and I hope they can change their idea and come and watch games and support us.
“In life, everyone has their opinion and it is important to respect each other. I look at the person. Winning is important and we will need the support of everyone around here.”
Over the next few weeks Di Canio will be assessing the team members who are still in contract with the club and rebuilding a team required to get back into the promotion race from the very first game. He is looking to contacts at AC Milan about young Italian players coming to Swindon and says Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has offered to help. He said, "“Most players that we want to bring in are English. We are in England, they know this football they know how to win this league but we also have ideas to bring in two or three intelligent players with the right head as a professional."
Di Canio will be joined at the club by two Italian assistants, former Inter Milan youth team coach Fabrizio Piccareta will be his assistant while Claudio Donatelli, who has spent time at Reggina, will set down the fitness regime for the team. Di Canio said, “I like the way they work and they speak English even better than me.”
“We need to be able to tell the players what we want. We can explain what we would like all we want but at the end of the day it is the players who have to perform on the pitch. So it is important for me to have technical staff who can work with them and build a relationship with them.”
Images: Richard Wintle, Calyx 41 Churchward Avenue Swindon SN2 1NJ +44 (0) 1793 520131