Much like any other Sunderland fan I was fuming last night after watching the quite simply awful performance against Palace. It was the kind of game that kills off all the blind optimism a football fan has in the early days of the season. I'm old enough now that I really shouldn't let it ruin my weekend but i'm sure i'm not the only one who has felt flat ever since.
Last night wasn't helped either when I found out, thanks to Gary Lineker via twitter, that Paulo Di Canio "hadn't held back in his criticism of his players." An already bad evening was about to get worse I thought. This is just what the press had been waiting for and Di Canio was going to hand to them on a plate. I didn't want to watch match of the day, having already witnessed the debacle at Selhurst Park, but felt I had to see this. Fortunately I didn't have to wait too long. I was imformed that the full six and a half minute interview was on the BBC website and I didn't have to put myself through the pain of the match again.
As I clicked on the link I was dreading what I was about to hear. I had imagined an angry, spitting, seething mess of a man who had completely lost his cool and probably had blood dripping off his knuckles from punching the dressing room walls. What I saw though wasn't anything like that at all. In fact it was almost the complete opposite. It was a very calm man, who had just seen his team get a terrible result at one of the weakest teams in the league, criticise some glaring individual errors that, without doubt, cost his team at least a point. To be honest, I would have been more worried if Di Canio hadn't have mentioned these mistakes.
The O'Shea error was the one that ultimately stopped us getting anything from the game. How could he not have brought that up? I can't say that I actually heard him "slating" O'Shea. He just talked about his mistake and said it wasn't good enough. Manager's talk about individual errors costing them every week. You will always hear a manager say something along the lines of "If so and so had put that early chance away it could have been differen't" or "We were on top until so and so's slip at the back and it ended up costing us the game." I really can't see the difference. Remember when good old 'Arry publicly humiliated a certain striker by letting everybody know that his wife could have put away the sitter he missed? Press and pundits alike were falling over themselves laughing at that one. That was coming from a manager that the majority of the media wanted to be in charge of the national team! This was by far worse than anything Di Canio came out with last night.
As for his criticism of Ji, is there anybody else that wasn't baffled as to why he pulled out that header? I think most coaches would have been angered by that. However, when I heard Di Canio had torn into Ji, I feared the worst. Again though, it wasn't bad at all. It was a crucial incident that should have got us back level in the game. If Ji had missed the target or put it straight at the 'keeper I think we could have all forgiven that. Pulling out of it was bizarre though. Di Canio didn't go into the rant I was lead to believe though, he just seem to casually mention it as something inexplicable. I really thought, from what I had heard on social media, that he had torn into the kid. As it happens, it was all fairly mild.
The media have helped make this whole incident seem like more than it is. Gary Lineker was probably trying to drum up interest in what otherwise would have been a pretty dull match of the day. The written press don't need much of an excuse to get stuck into Di Canio and they will take every opportunity they can to have a go. O'Shea has big shoulders and he'll be more gutted by his mistake than his head coach's words afterwards. I suspect Ji had his dressing down in the dressing room and any words in an interview afterwards were very tame in comparison.
Don't get me wrong, i'm sticking up for Di Canio on this but i'm not completely on his side. Nobody can tell me that Larsson, Vaughan and Gardner are better in central midfielders than Cabral and N'Diaye, but he is an easy target in these sort of circumstances. If you do have a problem with Di Canio over his criticism of player's then that's fine, you're entitled to your opinion. I hope you feel the same when any other manager makes similar comments. Just remember though that this has made headlines because of who has made the comments, not because of what the comments actually are.