Paolo Di Canio aims to make a huge impression

PAOLO Di Canio was many things as a football player. He was an entertainer, a leader, a genius (flawed of course) and at times, by his own admission, a pain.

New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio
New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio

PAOLO Di Canio was many things as a football player. He was an entertainer, a leader, a genius (flawed of course) and at times, by his own admission, a pain.

Now Di Canio has only one role in his working life. He is a football coach, nothing more, nothing less.

The idea of the Sunderland players not seeing the gaffer until Thursday (like Roy Keane) or towards the end of a session (something that Martin O’Neill was accused of) is wishful thinking for a group of players who by all accounts are not quite sure was has hit them since first thing Monday morning.

Sir Alex Ferguson isn’t on the training ground every day.

Brian Clough wouldn’t be seen at all, sometimes until match day itself – but these two guys wrote their own rules and in the case of the Scot continue to do so.

Di Canio is not a man to be told what to do, but one self-imposed rule is he will be at the Academy of Light every day, closely watching and learning about his new charges.

All will feel his presence. He won’t need to rant and rave for them to know he is there, although you have to imagine a bit of that will go on.

Di Canio, in his West Ham United days, once boasted he hated hearing the final whistle when he still had energy left. He always, always looked shattered whenever he gave a post-match interview. A former team-mate of his at Celtic, Peter Grant, this week claimed he was the best trainer he had ever seen.

There is another tale Grant tells when Di Canio, having gone into a huff because he wasn’t getting enough of the ball at training, stormed off and walked the two miles back to the stadium in full kit, boots and all.

He always demanded the best from himself and team-mates. Now he will look for that from Sunderland’s players.

Di Canio revealed: “I said to the board when they asked me if I wanted to be called manager I prefer to work on the field. I am a coach, I am a teacher of football.

“It is not an issue if I am manager or not a manager. In the future, when we are talking about signing footballers and for the system I am going to us, then I will ask for the players I want to have.

“It’s only what we decided to write down, so we decided head coach because I feel like a coach.

“I like to be with my players every minute on the training field.

“I am not a typical manager who has an assistant that does the coaching for him.

“I work with my players every second on the field, every day during the week.”

Di Canio will already know what players, or at least the type of player, he wants to bring to the club.

Even if he doesn’t know for certain what league Sunderland will play in.

The supporters have had many justified complaints this season.

It’s not just the fact results have been bad, it’s the fact the football has been chronic at times.

Fans of Swindon do say that Di Canio’s team, while successful, did err on the cautious side.

However, they were League One players and if he is given money by Ellis Short, the Sunderland fans will hope this former player, who could beat three defenders with one drop of his shoulder, can bring much-needed excitement.

Di Canio added: “I know how I want to play in the future and what system I want to use.

“I want to play attractive football and get in a better position than we are in now.

“In the future, of course, I will ask for which players I want to have if it is possible, then I’ll hope to get them.”

“We have a few injuries but that shouldn’t be an issue because we have players of quality.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
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