Majority rules as Paolo di Canio sweeps into Swindon
Imagine misery of the people. A destroyed pride. Thousands unhappy with the direction of the entity that binds them together. Now imagine the delight of hope. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Any little indiscretion or character flaw on behalf of the redeemer can be forgiven. The main thing is the common good. Apathy slowly dissolves amid a flush of optimism.
The new man speaks to his people, appeals to his people and the appeal is plain to see. Here is the passion, the pride, the commitment that has been lacking for so long. There are dissenting voices, of course there are, but they are quickly lost beneath the weight of support for this radical change. And suddenly, does Swindon Town’s appointment of Paolo di Canio – a man passionate about both football and fascism – make perfect sense?
Those protesting voices would not strain to make themselves heard in person. They will not go to games. The County Ground will be united behind their new Italian. It is upon the vast no man’s land of internet messageboards and website comment sections that detractors appear sporadically to add weight to the statement made by the withdrawal of a union’s money. A minority less than delighted, but the vast majority excited.
It could have been different. Marco Delvecchio was on the same course as di Canio, Giuseppe Pancaro too. Remember Florin Raducioiu of Upton Park infamy? He was on it as well, along with Giuseppe Signori and the current Inter coach Leonardo. This motley crew graduated in June 2010 from Coverciano, all gleefully clutching their hard-earned UEFA Pro coaching licences. But it was di Canio to whom Swindon turned after their relegation from League One.
He performed from the beginning, using his first press conference to emphasise the importance of fans to any club. He wants to see the ground full, celebrating as his side entertains the crowd with attacking football. Any jobbing lower league manager could say the same, but few would proclaim: “This is my destiny. A lion can’t stay in a cage. He has to be on the pitch.”
Swindon is a lot closer to Frome than it is to Rome. Yet the success of Gustavo Poyet, to give one recent example of a foreign manager excelling outside of the top two divisions in England, must have occurred to Swindon’s interim chairman Jeremy Wray and chief executive Nick Watkins. The mere fact that a man of di Canio’s profile is willing to start at the bottom of the Football League in this country will speak volumes to Swindon’s fans, as it did to the men in charge of appointing their new leader.
Swindon have previous for appointing big names to fulfil their first managerial role in the game – Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle both cut their teeth at the County Ground. But this has a slightly different feel to it. Di Canio arrives with the club in League Two.
In a division crying out for a media profile, he fills the void left by another man of Lazio’s past – Sven-Goran Eriksson. The Leicester City manager is just one famous name that di Canio will be calling for a favour, along with the likes of his former West Ham manager Harry Redknapp at Tottenham and the great and good of Italian football. It all adds up to an exciting summer for Swindon supporters and what anyone else thinks about it is largely immaterial.
Unfortunately, individuals are often verbally attacked for their opinions in situations such as this. Di Canio himself dealt with the matter well yesterday, speaking of his regret that those previously involved with the GMB union’s sponsorship of the club will miss out on the pleasure of his new brand of football. But anyone daring to question or criticise the arrival of a player or manager on moral or political grounds is leaving themselves open to abuse.
Surely the way we support our football clubs should be up to us? And it is not easy to walk away from something so precious, no matter how strongly we may feel about one individual that appears on the payroll for the first time. It is unclear how many supporters oppose di Canio’s appointment at Swindon, but the actions of the GMB branch in the town and the odd complaint on the internet suggests there are one or two who are unhappy with the Italian’s arrival.
Paolo di Canio’s credentials as a man passionate about football are not in question. His ability to manage a club newly relegated to League Two, however, remains in doubt for the time being. There is plenty for di Canio to prove, but some minds have already been made up – and nothing that takes place on the pitch will be able to make a difference.