Sunderland can't sweep this furore under the carpet, it would never have happened under Quinn's watch

`Dad. What’s a fascist?’

My son Harry is ten, football daft and was wearing the new Sweden shirt he asked me to bring back from my ten day trip with Ireland last month. 

He hates me being away, but he loves his football. And he’s always asking what I’m writing about. He doesn’t remember Paolo Di Canio the player, but he does know all about his acrobatic goal because it’s possibly his dad’s favourite of the Premier League era. Although you’ll never beat Kenny Dalglish against Belgium.

Brave call: Paolo Di Canio poses with a club scarf after being unveiled as the new Sunderland manager

Brave call: Paolo Di Canio poses with a club scarf after being unveiled as the new Sunderland manager

He does know all about the maniac who managed Swindon, because we all saw enough of that on the sports news clips. He didn’t know he was a fascist until now.

The Second World War has been covered at his primary school. And one project enabled him to research his great grandfather Charlie Ross who fought the Italians in Egypt. He was never fond of the place. His brother Colin, after whom I am named, died 20 days after the D-day invasion began in a field near Caen.

On Sunday night I reminded him of a passage in Antony Beevor’s astonishing D-Day book. It was the bitter battle with Uncle Colin’s Scots of the 15th Division and the Panzer Lehr Division near a village called Tremmel. Montgomery called it the `showdown’.

`As men were shot down in the pale green wheat, comrades would mark their position for medical orderlies to find. The took the wounded men’s rifle with fixed bayonet rammed it into the ground and placed his helmet on top. One observer remarked that these markers looked `like strange fungi spouting up haphazardly through cornfields.’

That’s what we were discussing in the Young household on Sunday night.

So when my former colleague Doug Weatheral forwarded an email from Dave Bowman, chairman of the Greater Manchester Sunderland Supporters Association, I decided to contact Dave and discuss the reasons behind his decision to resign from that position. He had set the branch up, travelled every week as a season ticket holder and been a supporter since 1957.

But he will never go back to the Stadium of Light again while Paolo Di Canio is manager. And his passionate belief in his principles, for all his love for Sunderland Football Club, struck a chord. He even threatened to go and watch Stockport County every week instead.

Not fussed: Di Canio looking as relaxed as ever as he strolled out to meet the cameras

Not fussed: Di Canio looking as relaxed as ever as he strolled out to meet the cameras

Dave was the first protestor I became aware of. Dave Milliband was the one who provoked the frenzy which has followed since but was bound to come at some time. He has been accused of ulterior motives but he knew the consequences of his actions.

Ellis Short, it would appear, had not considered the implications of his strange decisive actions over the weekend when he sacked Martin O’Neill and decided Di Canio was the answer.

Sunderland did need a lift, and have fallen short of column inches since Roy Keane’s departure and Niall Quinn walked away, and Newcastle United became a force again and qualified for Europe. But no one at the club seems prepared for this furore, or actually comprehend the depth of feeling.

Never has Quinn been so sorely missed. This would not have happened on his watch.

Good riddance: David Miliband has resigned after citing Di Canio's 'past political statements'

Good riddance: David Miliband has resigned after citing Di Canio's 'past political statements'

In his press conference yesterday Di Canio had the opportunity, several times, to categorically confirm or deny whether he is a fascist or not. 

He chose not to and instead we had to decipher his original statement and the versions of it he repeated yesterday. And you have to read every word not to understand it, just in case anything is taken out of context.

What the club wants of course if for the games to come along now. They can’t sweep this furore under the carpet but games would help.

Only problem is they travel to Chelsea on Sunday and then they have the Tyne-Wear derby. 

Maybe Di Canio should stick the Durham Miners’ banner in the centre circle and be done with it. No one will notice. It’s going to be lively enough.

When he did talk football yesterday, he was engaging and entertaining. I have to put up with Giovanni Trapattoni on Ireland duties, which is mad enough, but at least Di Canio makes sense.

Under normal circumstances, Di Canio the coach and football philosopher is a fascinating subject.

The following is the transcript of the section dealing with whether he would kick a Sunderland player up the backside. It is uninterrupted and just about word for word.

Brilliant stuff. And who knows it might just work. 

Ellis Short has taken a massive gamble and clearly believes this eccentric man and inexperienced coach will ensure Sunderland have their hands on the Barclays Premier League’s eye-watering bounty next season.

Some Sunderland fans say if he can do that, his politic views are irrelevant. Others think they’re irrelevant anyway. 

But there’s too many with views as strongly held as Di Canio’s who want him out and will stay away from the club until he goes. And at least they don’t deny them.


'If it is good to win the game then why not? I don’t know if there is a code to being a manager, but I remember a few years ago that Mourinho made a sub at Chelsea. He took two players off in the first-half, and one of them was Carvalho who was one of the men who had signed for him.

'He was his friend, but was fed up with the way he was approaching the game. Everyone was saying he was a fantastic manager because he changed things after 20 minutes, then they won the game.

'There is not a code. If one of my players behaves really well until a day before the game and is really focused, with a very high determination then he will start.

'As a manager, I live with them and study them. If you do that you can realise that something has happened in the last few hours to change things.

'It might not because one of my players made a technical mistake, it might be because he is making a problem for his team-mates.

'I want to be clear. In this game (at Swindon) Wes Fortheringham, my goalkeeper, one of the best players I brought into the club, conceded the first goal. It was a mutate but I didn’t sub him.

'He conceded a second goal and then started blaming the defensive line. So at this moment I was worried we might have the worst defeat ever when you have people who keep arguing and blaming each other. You have to make a decision.

'That decision was to change the goalkeeper because he was the only one blaming four other players. You can’t change four players and anyway those four players were right.

'He was in the wrong, but they didn’t blame him.

'It looked like Di Canio just subbed a player because he was angry. No, there was a reason and the results I got after that moment were excellent.

'Wes became a better athlete and a better person. He was only 19, young, but he became the best keeper in League One, so who was right? The media or Paolo Di Canio?

'Which occasions (the kick) because it happened two or three times?

'I did see one picture in the newspaper today of an incident where I kicked Richard’s bottom. They said it had happened after I changed him and was angry.

'No, it was after a game and we were celebrating. Richard is a fantastic lad and I hadn’t changed him in the game – we won 1-0.

'I always wait for my players at the end of the game to thank them for their performance.

'I had a special relationship with Richard and was joking with him. I gave him a little slap on his face and a kick on the bottom – but it was a celebratory moment.

'With James Collins, we won 4-3 against Stoke City at Stoke. He is a young player, and I know him. Because of previous experiences, I know that after he scores a goal he relaxes.

'He thinks I have scored my goal and my job is done. He came over to the bench to celebrate with me. But the first thing I said to him was that now he must start to run everywhere.

'He didn’t really understand, so I kicked his bottom. If it is necessary to win the game then why not?

'People might prefer a different style and I don’t want to criticise other people’s style, but I act in the dugout in a certain way, I have passion and sometimes when the players are tired they really need to hear your voice, to encourage them, or give instructions.’


Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.