In the early 1990’s I produced the in house videos for the then much less fashionable Chelsea Football Club. So it was that I was on the pitch when manager Ian Porterfield publicly sacked goalkeeper Dave Beasant. He did so to camera and that was broadcast on ‘Match of the Day’ the same night.
Dave Beasant, a smashing fella whose nickname was ‘The Lurch’, had just completed a nightmare game at home to Norwich City. I know it was a nightmare because I was behind his goal as we filmed the match.
I felt for Dave that day and the manner in which Porterfield handled the incident was messy and an example of bad management.
The other night I listened to the interview given by Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio. An interview he gave to radio immediately after the match in which he had substituted his young goalkeeper Wes Foderingham after just 20 minutes. They lost 4-1 to Preston North End
I was appalled with what Di Canio said:-
“He was one of the worst players i have ever seen in a football match. He was crappy even against Stoke when we won 4-3. He was the worst player but we cover for him.
“Not only mistakes he made, which can happen to anyone, but today his arrogance was the worst thing when he starts complaining to others. The player made a rubbish mistake and he behaved as the worst professional, arrogant and ignorant player i have ever seen.
“He was nothing until he joined me, not the club, but me. He didn’t have one second as a professional. Nobody wanted him. Who does he think he is, (Peter) Cech? He’s twenty and he thinks he’s untouchable.”
While we all despair of hearing managers talk in dull, predictable cliches, it is an acknowledged fact that the best managers sort out internal player problems away from the cameras. In the dressing room. In his office. And when the dust has settled. I don’t know of one incident such as this where a manager speaking publicly has benefited the team, the individual player, manager or the club as a whole.
I feel for Wes Foderingham. His career could be ruined by the outrageous and, frankly, slanderous outburst from his manager. Were i him I would be contacting a solicitor for defamation of character.
I hope that if the lad has an agent, he is trying to get him away from Di Canio pronto.
The Italian made an example of the lad and humiliated him in front of an attendance of 10.372.
Initially many Swindon fans were not happy with how Di Canio handled the situation and expressed sympathy for the goalkeeper.
Di Canio responded by telling them that they should go and watch local rivals Oxford United instead. Any Swindon season ticket holders could have their money back. He would see to it personally.
But then diplomacy has never been one of Paolo’s strengths.
I saw him play often at Sheffield Wednesday. On his day, which was more often than not, he was a sensational player to watch. He was worth the entrance fee alone.
But he had a temper all of his own. Even back then. As a player Paolo Di Canio was no pushover to manage.
I saw him needlessly get himself sent off at Hillsborough when picking a fight with a linesman over a throw in. He just wouldn’t leave the argument alone until such time as the ref was left with little choice but to show him a red card. Over a throw in for pete’s sake!
I was in the dressing room that day when big Ron Atkinson called him stupid for getting sent off and letting the team down.
Paolo walked over to his manager, lifted his not inconsiderable frame from the floor, pinned Ron against the wall and informed his manager that he should not call him stupid again. Or words of a similar nature.
When recounting that day Ron said: “I’ve managed a few nutters in my time, but Di Canio takes the biscuit.”
And, of course, there was the famous day when he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the floor in a match between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday. Di Canio was already on his way to the dressing room after being shown a red card for kicking out at Martin Keown.
En route to the dressing room he added insult to injury by depositing the ref to the ground.
The then manager of Sheffield Wednesday, Danny Wilson, was shocked by what he saw and insisted the player leave the ground immediately. Wilson had Di Canio suspended the following day.
Di Canio quickly boarded a plane to Rome.
He knew he would never return to Hillsborough. He had no intention of doing so. He behaved in a manner worse than that of Wes Foderingham, who simply displayed frustration. He didn’t push anyone to the floor or leave the country.
Years later Di Canio apologised to Alcock. Foderingham has said sorry immediately. Paul Alcock said that after the Di Canio incident “my confidence was shot to pieces.” I would imagine the young ‘keeper feels the same way.
Di Canio let down the Sheffield Wednesday fans who so worshipped him and helped pay his vast wages. They idolised him but he walked out on them. No apology to his colleagues club, fans or his manager.
The very thing he so rapidly demanded of young Wes Foderingham.
Paolo Do Canio was furious when Sheffield Wednesday refused to support his planned appeal against the punishment handed down by the FA. An 11 match ban and a fine of £10.000.
I was working for Sky Sports News at that time in 1998 and we sent a reporter out to Italy to track down Di Canio. He was found riding a scooter around his home town and said he would never return to Sheffield Wednesday.
We sort of knew that because his people were already in touch with other Premier League clubs trying to get a move, ideally to London.
Clubs knew they would get him on the cheap as he was in dispute with Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls had little choice but to cut their losses and manager Wilson told the Chairman he didn’t want to see the Italian back at the club. The feeling was mutual.
Wednesday had paid Celtic £4.2 million for Di Canio. West Ham got a much improved player for only £1.7 million. He went on to be a hero at Upton Park.
Di Canio knew what he was doing. He effectively constructed his own dismissal. He had been frustrated for months.
He and his mate Benito Carbone had grown tired of life in Sheffield. As Carbone once said: “all we can do on our day off is go to Meadowhall shopping centre. There is nothing else to do in Yorkshire.”
They both craved the bright lights of the big city of London. Di Canio got his wish. Carbone, meanwhile, went to Bradford. I never did ask him if he enjoyed the Kirkgate shopping centre!
Paolo Di Canio was an excellent player. He loved being a big fish in a series of small pools. He displayed skills I have seen so rarely in my football watching life.
The chairman of Swindon Town is happy with the job Di Canio has done as manager at the County Ground. He got them promoted from League 2 and they could yet go on to another promotion this season.
Di Canio values loyalty from his players. But he didn’t show that to Sheffield Wednesday when he ran off to Italy with his tail between his legs.
He criticised his goalkeeper for acting in a petulant fashion when substituted so early in the game.
I would love to have seen how Paolo the player would have reacted had any manager of his had the temerity to substitute him in such a theatrical fashion.
On November 6th Swindon Town play Sheffield United, managed by his former boss Danny Wilson.
There could be fireworks that night!
The current manager of the Blades has never forgiven Di Canio for his actions when they worked together at Sheffield Wednesday. There was no love lost between the men long before the ref inhaled grass.
Stand by for one of those smiling, but terribly insincere, pre-match handshakes.
There are many faces to Paolo Di Canio. Not just the two faced one.
The man is a self proclaimed fascist, believes Mussolini was “a much misunderstood man” and Paolo is someone who finds it difficult to acknowledge that the holocaust actually happened.
Get a few bottles of Peroni down Paolo and, who knows, he may say Hitler was a jolly nice fella.
Back in the 90’s, had i known his political beliefs, i would not have so loudly cheered his exquisite goals.
In the game between Swindon and Preston why did Di Canio employ touchline gestures and substitute the player in such a melodramatic manner? There was no need for that. It was another example of what Paolo does best. Showing off. He loves all the media attention. Don’t fall for the “why always me” type response.
Like all the volatile men i have ever met, he is one of the most charming.
But, with his own track record of tantrums, he is hardly in a great position to criticise one of his players for kicking a water bottle when being taken off.
I wonder if the Italian knows of the idiom: “the pot calling the kettle black.”
Maybe someone should tell him.
How about it Wes?
Before watching the more tame, less insane TV interview below i urge you to listen to the first post match interview given by Di Canio to radio by downloading the BBC 5live show “The Monday Night Club” via this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/5lfd
The Di Canio interview is at one hour and two minutes into that download.
Then watch the goalkeepers performance and reaction to being substituted (below) and see if that warranted the abuse aimed at him by his manager