West Ham supporters love to worship a player that has entertained them with passion, flair and ability and if you were to ask any Hammers fan who their favourite player has been at Upton Park in the past 20 years the majority would repeat the same name. When I was growing up I was fortunate enough to be able to get to Upton Park each week and watch my footballing hero become a legend in the East End whose name is still heard from the stands today.
You may have heard this said before, but I was sitting directly behind ‘that goal’ against Wimbledon that was voted the best ever Premier League goal that only confirmed what I had known for a while; Paolo Di Canio is a genius.
When Avram Grant was sacked after doing a wonderful job to get West Ham relegated last season from the Premier League, a certain Italian’s name was popping up on a regular basis to be his successor. Hammers owners David’s Gold and Sullivan were quick to dismiss Di Canio from being a contender to return to his second home due to one key issue, a lack of experience. The level headed owners were able to take a step back and view the decision without rushing in to please the supporters which has to be admired.
The former Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton forward though, took that on board and after discussions with a few Football League club’s he was offered the managers role at Swindon Town, where he immediately became a fans favourite with the Robins supporters. In the script, Paolo would be showing his passion, making pundits and supporters fall in love with him once again, and steer the talented Town to automatic promotion. Once that was done, Di Canio would be a viable option and favourite to take over at West Ham once Sam Allardyce had got bored of the constant criticism from the terraces and left to take over at Blackburn Rovers again once the Venky’s got rid.
However, having spent a lot of money in the summer bringing in plenty of talent to the County Ground, Di Canio’s side suffered a slow start in League Two following relegation last season and doubts were beginning to grow as to whether the 43-year-old could really cut it in English management. But the turnaround is well and truly on and Swindon are now just outside the automatic promotion places after losing just once in a remarkable 22 games in all competitions that included victories over Premier League Wigan and League One high flyers Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup.
Unfortunately for Di Canio, his exuberance and passion has spilled over on many occasions this season and his pile of letters from the FA will trump even Joey Barton’s after regular dismissals and fines while on the touchline. Di Canio has to learn that he is going to be under the spotlight every time he emerges from the tunnel, even more so than when was a player, and biting his tongue may affect his passion but may also move him up the Football League ladder.
As a player, Di Canio was never far from controversy whether it was shoving referees to the ground, fighting over the taking of a penalty or giving up an open goal to score because the opposition goalkeeper was injured, he has clearly not lost any of that personality, which made him so endearing to the majority of football fans but stepping over the mark is becoming far to regular and expensive for a lowly club.
So for a club such as West Ham to take the risk of bringing Di Canio to Upton Park in the next year or so is unnecessary and could end terribly for both parties, with his legendary status being hindered and the club slipping back to the second tier of English football. It may take time for the ageing Italian to adapt to management in England and learnt not to attract so much attention to himself but hopefully one day it may all come together for him.
I would like nothing better than the smart Italian to come running down the touchline at Upton Park celebrating a last minute winner in the Premier League as manager of West Ham, but Irons supporters and other club’s who may have a look at Paolo next year must take a step back and think, is it really worth the risk? Give him another two years or so to mature and learn in the managerial game and the answer to that question may be very different!
Would you like Di Canio as your manager now or next season? Let me know on Twitter: @Brad_Pinard
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