We're constantly being told that life under Di Canio "won't be short of excitement" and will always be interesting. Is it like that?
Ron Smith: Simply yes.
Di Canio is as exuberant as a manager as he was as a player. He's frequently been accused of bringing with him a ‘circus' and there's a lot of truth in his ability to galvanise and whip up a storm with fans and media alike, after all he attracts and loves the attention. It was a whirlwind 20 months at the County Ground, we've never seen anything like it and he was exactly what was needed after relegation under the lifeless Paul Hart.
It's everything about the man that breeds excitement; the way he conducts himself in the media, in the dugout and some of the comments and rants are just spectacular! Just make sure you record his post match interviews to listen to them again, he doesn't make sense for the first or second time you hear him...
Does at any stage it become a little tiresome though? We kind of grew that way towards Roy Keane after the initial excitement...
RS: In the end it's all about delivering success on the pitch, which is what Paolo did at Swindon.
As a result it became more than just about the personality, as Di Canio secured the League Two title at a canter, 8 victories over higher league opponents in cup competition, a trip to Wembley in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final and to top spot in League One this season.
Paolo did get tiresome in some areas owing to his public handling of his disagreements with the Board. With a transfer embargo frustrating his ambitions to constantly improve his squad, he took to openly criticising the Board for ‘broken promises' and the like that eventually wore very thin.
Speaking of whom, what's his policy like with regards to recruitment, and how well does he use the money at his disposal?
RS: Recruitment is perhaps his biggest area of weakness. He signed 38 players at Swindon, of which 10 had their contracts paid up early as they were soon proved unsuitable to Di Canio's methods or just not up to playing in the lower reaches of the Football League. It was also a revolving door with 26 departing, including 12 of his own permanent signings leaving within 18 months.
He's admitted that mistakes were made in his early times and there were plenty, including the infamous Leon Clarke incident - which was widely misreported as instigated by Di Canio when it wasn't.
How this translates to Premier League riches and multi-million pound players will be very interesting as mistakes will undoubtedly be more costly, although Paolo clearly isn't the first or last manager to sign a flop or several. Expect a massive fire sale of players this summer as he finds out who he can work with and who wants to be managed by Di Canio...
Off the field there's been some comment about his fascist side. Was this a bother at all to Swindon fans, and how has he answered back to it?
RS: When he first joined in May 2011 this was the main talking point amongst supporters and the media, with a few cancelling season tickets and a trade union pulling out of their minor sponsorship deal. It seems this has continued with David Miliband resigning and some Sunderland supporters probably not renewing their season tickets in disgust.
For any Mackem concerned about this aspect of his personality please read his autobiography and learn a little about Italian politics first, he's a complex character.
Paolo's views on politics never interfered with the running of Swindon, as confirmed by our former chairman Jeremy Wray - who appointed Di Canio. He never raised any political views in the media, nor have they caused any conflicts with supporters. When these matters were raised by the media he was always quick to deflect away and concentrate on the job at hand.
In the end, if he hadn't been a success then he would've been denounced as a fascist, he brought success so he wasn't...
What's Di Canio like tactically. When he arrived at Swindon how long was it before you noticed a significant change in style and philosophy?
RS: Di Canio arrived in the closed season, after relegation, with a total rebuilding job. In terms of what went before (Paul Hart) he had no need to copy, instead he had time to drill and plenty of cash - by League Two standards - to replace. And he did, a whole team in each half of a season. He took a few games for his impact to be really felt - and quite a few extra new signings - as he really got the standard of League 2 wrong.
He's a 4-4-2 man. It's direct and cautious, if not an outright defensive version. He always claimed the simplistic system was due to the limitations of his players. At Town he used one inverted winger - Matt Ritchie - an exceptional individual who scored frequently, created most of the chances and protected an attacking right-sided fullback. Paolo quit when he was sold.
The front pairing were provided from wide but largely had to forage, support each other and attack space to push the opposition back. The central midfielders were mostly defensive and highly drilled, never over-committing and so ensuring Town were rarely caught on the counter.
How does he set his teams up, and what are the traits of a Di Canio side?
RS: One quote from Paolo that says a lot is "My football has got a very clear identity. Everybody has got different quality but we know what we want and we saw against Colchester, if we don't press, if we don't receive the ball at the right time, our mechanism and our shape are our leaders."
In summary Paolo's tactics have been:
- One full back to push, one to cover.
- One inverted winger, one orthodox hugging the by-line
- One out and out holder central midfielder, one who can create a little
- Two centre forwards, both with pace and aggression. He doesn't seem to like a target man or someone who drops too deep. They need to contribute always - no place for a specialist finisher.
- Centre backs need to play a bit but not massively - they are defenders, but no afraid to push central midfielders back into defensive roles.
- His Town side were robust but not overly physical or big. They didn't dive or kick, crowd the ref or talk back - he did that.
- Direct football, where possession is secondary to positioning. The ball is kept but only to create change. He doesn't like 'tippy-tappy football'
- Drilled, drilled and drilled again - efficient, orthodox football
Is he the kind of manager who can change a game if things aren't going his way? It's something a lot of manager we've had haven't been able to do...
RS: What is that Mourhino quote.. "They [Italians] think of football in relation to the opponent, and change their way accordingly", Paolo Di Canio is Italian...
He can change games with a substitution, but he is also convicted that he can so expect half time subs - or even 21 mins for a 'keeper. However, he won't really change the system - and if he does, going on his time at Town, it doesn't work and doesn't seem planned or drilled for - oddly given his style.
Does he bring in his own staff with him, and if so what are they like and how much help do they provide to him?
RS: Yes, Di Canio has a team comprising: Fabrizio Piccareta (Assistant Manager), Domenico Doardo (goalkeeping coach) and Claudio Donatelli (Fitness Coach) who he met at Coverciano while graduating with his UEFA Pro Coaching License.
This group are very loyal to him and the backroom team resigned after the Tranmere Rovers game, stating: "We are here for Paolo Di Canio and we will follow him everywhere even if he coaches at Real Madrid or Luton Town because we are a team and we have shown these past two years that if you have a strong team and all the people involved are a strong team you can make a fantastic achievement."
How much of a risk do you think we're taking?
RS: With the average reign for a football manager soon to be counted in minutes, no appointment is a risk. Sunderland are without a win in 8 matches and something had to be done to ensure Premier League safety. The problem Mackems face is that Di Canio has started both the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons slowly after winning both opening games 3-0. How this translates into the final 7 league games and a relegation fight - something he's yet to be embroiled in as a manager - will be interesting viewing.
If you desperately need a manager to put some fire in the belly and install some passion then he's your man, however he's found it difficult to work with what has been at his disposal and he must be very confident he can deliver without fresh faces joining for the remaining games.
Times will be interesting at the Stadium of Light...
A huge debt of thanks goes to Ron Smith, editor of The Washbag, Swindon Town's foremost and best blog. Follow them on Twitter @TheWashbag and check out some more words of wisdom from him with this excellent post he recently put up on his site - More On Di Canio - Essential Reading For SAFC Fans