March 31st 2013 is the date Paolo Di Canio officially returned to the Premier League.
Ellis Short, the Chairman and Owner at Sunderland made the decision to appoint the Italian as successor to Martin O’Neill following the latter’s departure from the Stadium of Light on Saturday. As a result, David Miliband the former Foreign Secretary, resigned from his post as Vice Chairman and Non-Executive Director. So if the board are split over the decision, how should the fans feel?
His first managerial appointment, at Swindon Town, ended in rather acrimonious circumstances. Despite this, his results speak for themselves; 54 wins in 95 games and just 23 losses make for good reading, especially when you add in the promotion form League 2 as Champions and a Runners Up medal in the Football League Trophy final all in his first season. The former West Ham striker left Swindon with the Robins pushing for automatic promotion from League 1, so it has been no surprise to see him constantly linked to managerial vacancies. But many eyebrows will be raised at this appointment.
Controversy follows the outspoken Italian everywhere he goes, from his playing days to the present day; his past political statements being a key factor behind Miliband’s resignation. In August 2011, Di Canio had a much publicised pitch-side altercation with then Swindon striker Leon Clarke, a brawl that continued into the tunnel and dressing room. The striker soon departed the County Ground. Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham was another player involved in a bust-up with Di Canio after the manager substituted him early in the first half of a league match, due to two goals being conceded from goalkeeping errors. The young ‘keeper later apologised. All this amongst various media and touchline outbursts can barely be excused at a League club but for his success.
Though with this controversy comes commitment; Di Canio offered to pay £30,000 to keep 3 loan players during Swindon’s cash-strapped season. In January, he turned up at the County Ground to help 200 supporters clear the pitch of snow in order for the game against Shrewsbury Town to pass a pitch inspection, before buying pizza for all those that helped.
Overall, Paolo Di Canio was mistreated at Swindon Town towards the end; not being informed of star player Matt Ritchie’s departure to rivals Bournemouth, being the final straw. But will a Premier League club stand for the unpredictability of a young, relatively inexperienced, but controversial manager? Only time will tell.