When Paolo Di Canio was appointed manager of Swindon Town on 20th May 2011 many eyebrows were raised. Would one of the all-time Premier League greats be able to use his creative playing style on a team that were recently relegated into League Two? The answer mid-february is yes, but not without ruffling some feathers on the way.
After being on the verge of promotion to the Championship back in May 2010, losing to Millwall 1-0 at Wembley, Swindon were relegated the season after. Key players Charlie Austin, Gordon Greer and Billy Painter all left and despite Paul Hart’s attempts, Town were down into League Two.
After a season of lows, a suprising high-point came off the field that shocked the football world. Di Canio appointed on a two-year-deal, an all-time legend in charge of a lower league club.
The Italian soon got to work, selling David Prutton and several others to free up the wage budget, which allowed a total of 15 players to be bought in. Ten of these relatively unknown foreign players, Kerrouche signed from the UAE showed Di Canio’s ambition. But the new signings took a while to settle in, Swindon losing 6 of their first 13 games.
The Italian’s passion for the game is unquestionable and has been a real driving force in Swindon’s success this season, but when the passion overspills the FA Stepped in. Di Canio was sent to the stand in their derby defeat to Oxford after disagreeing with an offside call.
‘I have a culture and I do not stop my culture, I speak with my body language sometimes and English referees need to respect me.’
The passion and determination from the manager’s playing days could be seen on the touchline, Swindon were picking up some momentum. Di Canio’s ideologies of playing attractive football was there to be seen, going undefeated in October and November meant that Swindon were climbing up the league table.
Adored by Swindon fans, Di Canio is soon making himself a cult-hero at the County Ground, sent off for running on the pitch and celebrating with the players after Alan McCormack’s late winner at Northampton. The Town were buzzing, and having seen off Premier League Wigan Athletic 2-1 in the FA Cup, Paolo and his boys were also rampant in the league.
Luke Rooney was signed after a disagreement with Gillingham after Di Canio publically announced they were trying to sign the 21-year-old.
Once again the former West Ham man found himself in trouble with the FA, sent to the stands yet again after argueing one of his players had been pushed over. A two-game touchline ban in Swindon’s most important time of the season.
Toppling promotion rivals Southend 4-1 away from home, Swindon became one of the country’s most in-form teams but defeating Crawley Town 3-0 at home signalled the intent of the Robins, anything less then promotion is not acceptable. Di Canio’s most controversial moment yet came in the press-conference after the Crawley game:
‘I give the FA permission to ban me for the rest of the season, we will win the league anyway’
Shrewsbury, another promotion rival, were swept away 2-1 and after the game Di Canio said:
‘Swindon proved that they are far away from other clubs near the top’
The audacity and passion from the Italian is hated by many but undoubtly revered. The bold statement of intent ‘We will win the league’ is exactly what we expect from a man who’s playing career was anything but normal. His playing style of football is techincal and not many will bet against the passionate Di Canio leading Swindon to the League Two title.