We haven’t had a good one in a while have we? An English football scandal that we could all obsess over for a few days…
Luis Suarez hasn’t handled a ball against plucky FA Cup minnows in weeks, while Eden Hazard has probably been put off kicking cheeky Welsh ball boys for the remainder of his career.
What was the best one we’ve had recently? Callum McManaman’s tackle? Rio Ferdinand pulling out of the England squad? They were hardly scandals to get the pulses racing were they? Enter Paolo Di Canio.
Except Di Canio hasn’t just entered English football at all.
Following a season at Celtic in 1996/97, the Italian spent six years as a player in the Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton, achieving cult hero status at the Hammers.
Now a manager, for the past two years he’s been stationed down the divisions with Swindon Town, earning them promotion from League Two in 2012 before resigning due to an ownership row this February with the club challenging for elevation to the Championship.
All of which makes the events of the past few days a little odd.
Following Di Canio’s appointment as the new manager of Sunderland on Sunday, talk has been rife of his alleged fascist beliefs and sympathies.
Of course using the word ‘alleged’ is a bit difficult when you see some of the words that have come out of Di Canio’s mouth in the past, but the focus on his words and much-publicized act in 2005 has dominated the unveiling of the Italian, who had a tough enough job keeping Sunderland in the Premier League without all of this.
The answer to the scrutiny can of course be found in Di Canio’s change of destination, because the journey from Swindon to Sunderland didn’t just take him from south west to north east England, but it took him from the Football League to the Premier League as well. Everything looks bigger from up here.
This is in no way an attempt to defend Di Canio’s past comments, but if they didn’t seem such a big problem in Swindon then why should they be now? Of course the Robins didn’t have a figure as well known as the former Shadow Foreign Secretary David Milliband around to register his displeasure, but any opposition to his Swindon appointment received little attention and was soon forgotten once he started winning.
Under the Premier League magnifying glass everything appears bigger and more exposed though, none more so than during the last major scandals in the division which occurred within a week of each other in October 2011.
Just as there will always be those who now prefer to see Suarez and John Terry as card carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan as opposed to individuals who made a snap decision and ultimately a huge mistake – intentionally or otherwise – so now there will be others who instantly judge Di Canio without ever looking deeper into the story.
Supporters of Liverpool and Chelsea’s rivals repeatedly bring up the Suarez and Terry incidents because they like to see their opponents squirm. It is another one of the less tasteful aspects of the whole sorry business, but doesn’t often get mentioned.
The chances are that most of them and you won’t have heard of the Reading player John Mackie, who was banned for three matches for racist abuse in 2003. That occurred in the old Division One though, where headlines weren’t sought and reputations weren’t damaged as rapidly as they are in the Premier League.
Most of that is beside the point though, because Di Canio’s off-field beliefs will soon become yesterday’s story too.
A couple of wins from his early matches in charge – and given that the first two of them are away to Chelsea and then a derby match against Newcastle then he’s not entering quietly – will see the focus mercifully switch to football for Di Canio, just as it ended up doing for him at Swindon.
Even if he fails to keep the Mackems up in these final seven matches of the season then he deserves a tilt at the Championship in 2013/14, and if he achieves promotion there then you can be certain that all of the talk will be of his managerial skills and nothing else.
We’ll have had plenty of new scandals by then anyway.
Di Canio will be old news.
Written by @Mark_Jones86