Di Canio: Should He Tone It Down?

Robert Cianflone

Management by hand grenade or is a more measured approach now required from the Sunderland supremo?

Ask the average man on the street what they think of Paolo Di Canio and they will likely respond with some retort based upon his exploits on the field during his playing days, be that the majestic moments he was capable of conjuring up with the ball at his feet or the histrionics that came along with such genius.

You may also come across someone who knows of the Italians venture into management, be it the turbulent yet ultimately successful stint with Swindon Town or, more recently, his appointment here at Sunderland.

However the most common turn of phrase is likely to centre around the so-called controversial aspects of the man and his reported political beliefs.

A recent comment that was levied at Di Canio by ex-Swindon Chief Exectutive Nick Watkins, back in March, has become somewhat of a tag line for the fledgling manager, with his style of management likened to that of a hand grenade.

For sure it is easy why as the evidence swiftly stacks up, be it his scuffles with his own players in the tunnel at Swindon, hauling of his goalkeeper in the first half or more recently on Wearside his "rants" in press conferences, most notably following the last game of the season at Spurs last term.

While such interactions with the press make for great headlines and quotes in newspapers across the land, a journalists wet dream, has there come a point now where if Di Canio is going to achieve any of the high expectations he has set himself he may, well, have to tone things down a little?

Fans reveled in Di Canio's words following his arrival, pouring scorn on the state of the squad that Martin O'Neill had left behind and answering questions that we all had surrounding many players' fitness and indeed mentality, it was clear that Di Canio had broken some unwritten rule in football management by openly disparaging the former manager's style and methods.

Sure, Di Canio was probably, if not definitely, right but by bringing such attention to the issue only further served to cast a spotlight on how he would set about installing his own style and ideology on the side.

There was then the little matter of the Phil Bardsley saga to contend with. Of course Di Canio had no control whatsoever over the pictures which made their way into the public domain, however could the situation following their exposure have been managed better? I would argue yes. Of course Bardsley was undoubtedly in the wrong, you will struggle to find anyone soul brave enough to defend his recent indiscretions, yet having been given such a public flogging we have essentially created an asset with zero value with which we are now lumbered and could well be for the foreseeable future.

Most recently we have seen a number of interesting managerial decisions that have raised a few eyebrows.

Firstly Ji's "treatment", shall we say, during the Capital One Cup against MK Dons a week or so ago. Ji had a stinker and was noticeably struggling and as the first half wore on the fans' patience in the stands was wearing thin, especially given the scoreline.

However rather than make the substitution that even my wife suggested during the break, Ji returned to the field for the second half, before a mistimed run saw the forward flagged offside just minutes into the second period, causing Di Canio to spring into action. The obviously rattled and nervous Ji then faced the walk of shame as fans rejoiced in his substitution.

Yes, the substitution was correct, but the timing was way off and for the conspiracy theorists out there looked quite possibly to have been an exercise in embarrassing the striker.

Secondly, was the treatment of John O'Shea following Sunderland's defeat at Crystal Palace at the weekend. I'll make no argument against the fact that O'Shea didn't exactly have the greatest performance of his career and was greatly at fault for his dismissal which brought about a penalty for the home side. However Di Canio's decision to tear O'Shea a new one after the match was a tad surprising, especially given the bond the pair appeared to have fostered over the summer as the former Manchester United man almost acted as his manager's confidant.

Again, I'll make no argument with what Di Canio actually had to say, but are these not words that would be best kept behind closed doors, rather than drawing further attention and scrutiny to the situation?

Of course Di Canio is a hugely passionate character, it is ingrained in his very DNA and makes for fantastic viewing when it is expressed in a positive manner, especially on touchlines at St. James' Park, however there has to be a line in the sand.

With the transfer window now closed and his squad complete, at least until the winter, it is surely time for Di Canio to show a little restraint and composure, especially in front of the press. The time to express his authority and status as a stern disciplinarian have now passed, this is now a given and is the least that is expected. What we need to see now, more than ever given Sunderland's tough run of home fixtures, is solidarity and a measured approach from Di Canio.

As the Italian himself has commented, the crows are circling, however I have my reservations that the way to get them off his back is with further hand grenades.

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