Leave The Pin In The Hand Grenade, Paolo

Scott Heavey

Di Canio's 20 minute tirade may have been music to the ears of many supporters, but the sound of an exploding grenade is not far behind.

When Paolo Di Canio speaks, it is hard not to be carried along on the tide of emotion that spills forth. When he tells us about players behaving unacceptably, it angers us just as it enrages him. He is merely telling us, in a perverse way, what we want to hear and in many cases already know or have an inkling of. We don't want our players to behave like buffoons, but when they do, we want them to punished, disciplined and corrected. When he tells us that's just what he's doing, it's hard not go along with it.

What we want and what we should get, however, are often very different things. Some things are better left unsaid. We all saw the pictures of Phil Bardsley and I am pretty sure, given the image Di Canio has portrayed since arriving on Wearside, his manager will not have taken kindly to this sort of activity. Now we needn't speculate; we know exactly what he thinks and so does anyone else in the world that cares to take an interest.

One man who has, Gordon Taylor, was evidently aware of the fines before the Di Canio revealed all to the media. His public response would not have arrived were it not for Di Canio's decision to speak openly about matters best kept under lock and key. Whatever you think about the players crawling to the PFA - it is rather pathetic, millionaires crying over losing a week or two's wages - it would have been an issue better dealt with away from the gaze of the wider football world.

Nevertheless, it's proved to be a populist management style thus far and has won Di Canio immense favour amongst our support, with many fans unsurprisingly giving their full backing to Di Canio over his decision to drop Bardsley and give him a tongue lashing. I would have been happy to see the back of him completely before this incident and if there is any good to come out of the whole debacle, it's Bardsley's now near certain departure.

Perhaps though, by speaking about his actions, Di Canio has made getting rid of the Mancunian that little bit more difficult. Perhaps a little restraint was required and emotions would have been better off kept in check, rather than bore to all and sundry. When asked about Bardsley, maybe it would have been better to simply say, "He was not in my team today, draw your own conclusions; the matter has been dealt with".

Instead, he went on the attack and publicly humiliated him. You could argue Bardsley did a pretty good job of that himself, and you'd be right, which in a sense proves my point. Words were not necessary. The pictures did the talking, just as the act of dropping him should have done the talking for Di Canio.

The likelihood is Bardsley and a number of the other players - not mentioned by name - brought up in the 20 minute tirade will not be with the club next season. It's easy to imagine that a number referred to will be out of contract or their loan deals expiring - Bramble, Kilgallon, Mangane seem pretty obvious - whilst the likes of Bardsley will be offered to anyone willing to buy him. In that sense, there should be no loss in terms of the dressing room, though a few pounds may well have been knocked off Bardsley's price tag.

Of much more significance than this group of soon to be ex Sunderland players is whether this confrontational style, aired to the world, will put off potential signings. Will a player, given the choice between Sunderland and another, similar offer simply think the aggro is not worth it and take the "easy" option? The amount of money earned by footballers today means if they can get it here, they can certainly get it somewhere else.

Of course, we don't want players to come to the club looking for an easy ride either. I am certainly not against discipline at the club. On the contrary, it is to be welcomed. However, it should be kept in house. It's how the best manage. Sir Alex Ferguson, possibly the greatest of all time, almost always protected his players in public, either defending them by name or deflecting attention onto another matter. We all know that behind closed doors, he was saying something completely different, as proved by the odd story that did leak out over the years.

Conversely, recently sacked Roberto Mancini has been more vocal in his disapproval of players at Manchester City. It is now coming to light - unfairly, perhaps - that he was immensely unpopular amongst groups of players at the club and that various cliques formed as a direct result of his management style. The stories are unedifying but they do help to explain why City have been so lacklustre this season.

If Di Canio can be unpopular amongst his players and win as much as Mancini has done, then there would be no complaints from me. The key difference is of course, Mancini had carte blanche to change his squad with an almost blank cheque book at his disposal. "Don't like it here? No problem, goodbye". At Sunderland, we simply do not have that luxury.

A number of players may well sign for the club, regardless of who is charge. Some may even be inspired by the challenge, only to fall out with him soon after, as was the case with goalkeeper Wes Foderingham at Swindon. Ultimately, if this does happen, we do not have resources to simply shift them on and replace them with another expensive commodity off the conveyor belt.

If you think I am overreacting, there is further evidence from his tenure at Swindon, beyond the Foderingham fall out. Paul Caddis was captain of the club before Di Canio stripped him of the armband, saying,

He's not the same player, not the same attitude, so it's time to make the decision. Now is the moment to change and send an important signal to everybody because Di Canio is the same.

Caddis was soon moved on in a swap deal involving Adam Rooney of Birmingham City.

This is just one example of another public blast at a player, though rather more subdued than the one aimed at Phil Bardsley. This is a player who was not an out of favour, out of form right back. This was Swindon Town's captain. It is a potentially worrying trend in his management style. What happens if the next player here to be lambasted is someone rather more important, like Sessegnon, Fletcher or Mignolet?

This might be the first sign of the management by hand grenade we were all told to expect. If it is, then it should be the last. By all means discipline players but do not turn it into a theatrical show with free entry for all. If we didn't already assume Di Canio was laying down the law, we now know for sure. He needn't repeat it. If he does, then that grenade might just go off before he can throw it.

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