Arrogant, eccentric, quarrelsome and compelling. A diverse contrast of characteristics, all contributing to the rise and fall of Paulo Di Canio.
His appointment at Sunderland towards the back end of last season raised many eyebrows, my own included. A controversial 20-month spell, in which he helped Swindon gain promotion to Division 1, was a cementing factor of the Black Cat’s decision to hire the fiery Italian. However, his unorthodox management methods, public scrutiny of his own players and a string of underwhelming performances led to his sacking last week.
One of Di Canio’s most controversial and questionable actions came just last weekend, following a 3-0 defeat at WBA. Di Canio astonishingly addressed the away fans, blaming himself for their recent run of form and begged for their support. Ultimately, he had to go.
Outdated management methods
Di Canio’s management style may have brought him success in the lower divisions, but implementing a similar style in the Premier League, took its toll on himself and the club. Publically criticising captain John O’Shea would’ve increased tension in an already effervescing changing room.
“Our leader didn’t react in the way he should. That is terrible because it was a crucial game for us. The penalty didn’t come from a dangerous situation. It’s absolutely poor and not acceptable.” Said the Italian following O’Shea’s dismissal.
As a professional who earns a good wage, I’m open to criticism; the fans pay good money to watch us each week, so it seems fair to point the finger if I’ve under-performed. However, for the manager to kick a player whilst he’s down and publically scrutinise your performance, says a lot about him. Having worked with a number of managers during my career, it’s often the ones that dish out respect, that earn it back. Unfortunately for Di Canio, by publically humiliating his own players, he inevitably lost their support and respect.
And Steve Bruce echoed this: “You cannot manage in the Premier League these days through a fear factor. You have got to be able to manage individuals.”
Sunderland’s current position isn’t pretty, but the blame cannot be solely placed on Di Canio. The board allowed him to make 14 changes to their squad. That’s 14 players a new manager will now have to adapt to their playing style and that’s why the Sunderland managerial position is currently one of the toughest out there. Sunderland needs someone who can instill some stability and that’s something Di Canio was unable to achieve. Nonetheless, even after he’d quit, his unpredictability will be fondly remembered at Swindon
‘Shame for the club, there are not many managers who would offer to put up £30,000 of their own money to keep players on loan. Hope Di Canio lands a good job and the new owners can find someone to continue with the progress he made while he was at the club.’ Said one fan.
‘This has been coming for a little while and I’m not surprised. Whilst never a fan of Di Canio, his achievements as a manager for Swindon deserve respect and he will undoubtedly get another job soon enough.’ Said another.
A tale of two halves
Unfortunately, the Italian won’t find himself in a similar situation with Sunderland. But as already mentioned, all the blame shouldn’t be placed at Di Canio. Of course, the demise of the club’s performances was a result of his unconventional management methods, but questions have to be asked of Sunderland’s board. Appointing Di Canio was a huge gamble. One that sees them rooted to the foot of the league. It seems their decision to hire Di Canio was based purely on reputation, instead of weighing up potential consequences of the Italian’s sporadic behaviour.
Subsequently, his dismissal can be pinpointed to a shift in player power. In the lower leagues, throwing his weight around would’ve gone relatively unnoticed, but speaking out against players such as John O’Shea – respected under Ferguson – was a step too far. Many of the players revolted as a consequence. Ultimately, costing the Italian his job.
Di Canio’s made it clear he wishes to return to English football. How would your react to news of the Italian taking over at your club?