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Captain's Blog: Is 'The Di Canio Effect' Enough To Finally Rouse The Sleepiest Giant?

Sunderland is a football club transformed. But just what is 'the Di Canio effect' and how far can it carry us?

Michael Regan

A derby victory, a feared bogey-team vanquished, and real fears of relegation all but entirely dismissed - Paolo Di Canio has achieved an awful lot in his three-game tenure so far.

Results just tell part of the story, though. With Di Canio there is something else at work, something extra in the air. It isn't really tangible, but I think we can call sense it. It's a thankless task and one to which I will almost certainly not do justice, but I thought I'd try and articulate this ‘Di Canio effect'.

I have to admit that when your area of football writing expertise is Sunderland AFC, editors are not exactly banging down your door asking for content unless, let's face it, we are staring disaster in the face and they want to revel in our collective misery.

The last three or four weeks have been very different, however. Editors have been coming to me because they want Di Canio content. They want Sunderland stories on their pages now. The value of that cannot possibly be understated for a football club with a somewhat limited natural widespread appeal.

It isn't just a one way street, though. Di Canio is someone that I want to write about. Towards the end with Martin O'Neill when he looked as bored and depressed as the rest of us, the same couldn't be said of him. Like going to the games themselves, covering Sunderland had become a chore.

That isn't just unique to the fact I am a supporter, either. The press and media simply want to cover Sunderland now. It's unpredictable and fun. It's box office, to borrow a phrase.

They said the same about Roy Keane, of course, and to a degree it was true. The media loved Keane. He brought that same flurry of attention to Wearside. The difference is that Keane didn't love the media. He didn't revel in the attention.

That is where Paolo Di Canio is very different. Waiting for every player and official to depart the pitch at the end of the game before purposefully strolling onto centre stage and lapping up the adulation of the fans, as he did last weekend, is not the actions of a man who does not actively seek attention. He wants to be noticed and the media are only too thrilled to facilitate that. That can be a double-edged sword, as we found out in the tumultuous first few days of his tenure, but it is also a tremendous opportunity to exponentially raise the profile of the club.

It is from a fans' point of view that ‘the Di Canio effect' is most tangible, however.

A former Sunderland manager - one of the more decent ones - told me that the secret to footballing success on Wearside is to ignite the passions of the fans as they will carry the players the extra mile that can count the most.

How much of that is true I don't really know, but I suspect there is a lot in it. The roar of the crowd and atmosphere in general at the Stadium of Light last week against Everton was as great as anything the ground has ever known, and it absolutely felt like the players were feeding off it, particularly in the last ten minutes or so.

Results help, naturally, especially an overwhelmingly positive one in a derby match. I am not sure it is quite as simple as that, though.

Had we had the same result and performance against Newcastle under Martin O'Neill, I'd have loved the moment the same but I can't honestly say it would have energized me in quite the same manner. It would have been seen as a result in isolation. I wouldn't have dared to look beyond it. It wouldn't have been any kind of a springboard.

Ultimately, there is just something about Paolo Di Canio that makes you want to believe. In fact, he makes you feel utterly ludicrous for ever believing anything else. You can call that fascism, cult of personality, or anything else you want, but it is a very powerful element to introduce into a fanbase of impassioned and habitual dreamers.

Whatever it is, I don't think we can put our finger on exactly what the Paolo Di Canio effect is. If it was that easy he wouldn't be so unique.

May be I am just getting far too carried away. It could very easily be yet another false dawn and this time next year it has all turned to bitter resentment. In fact there is no may be about it. I am getting carried away. I know I am and I don't care.

I just want to throw caution to the wind and go all in. Perhaps that is the true nature of the Di Canio magic. He has picked Sunderland up from its knees and dragged it out of its apathy with the power of an irresistible force of nature.

Whether or not even that is sufficient to rouse what is easily the snooziest sleeping giant in English football remains to be seen, but it's definitely going to be fun finding out.

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