Di Canio talks the talk ahead of first match as a manager
Published 06/08/2011 | 05:00
If Paolo Di Canio's new team can play a game anywhere near as good as the one their manager talks, then Swindon Town are in for a memorable season.
The Italian took over at the County Ground in May after Swindon's relegation to League Two, and his enthusiasm for his first taste of management is obvious as he sets a new world speed-talking record, his words full of passion, detail and wit.
Ask what he thinks of today's opponents, Crewe Alexandra, and you get an exhaustive tactical breakdown. Enquire about managers who have influenced him and back comes a long list, along with some accurate mimicry of Fabio Capello, the England manager and his coach at Milan. His Harry Redknapp isn't bad either, but now he has to move from impersonating a manager to being the real thing.
Listening to him, though, you understand that anyone expecting a novelty act will be disappointed. Di Canio is serious: he has made 12 new signings, brought in an all-Italian coaching staff, and introduced strenuous double training sessions that reflect his own dedication to fitness during his days with Lazio, Juventus, Milan, Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton Athletic. And any thoughts of building a team in his own flamboyant image are leavened with a healthy dose of realism.
"You can't judge your players by the way you played," he said. "That's not good. I'm a manager at League Two level and I have to understand the league and the players. If you think you can play possession football like Barcelona at this level, you can't.
"Obviously, I've always said that I'll try to play attractive football for this league. I want to win, attack with five players, but also not concede a goal."
Di Canio is remembered for outrageous moments of skill, and will encourage his players to try the spectacular, but only when the time is right. "I'm never going to tell players not to try tricks, do their stuff, especially if they're talented, but do it in the area, where it should be."
Di Canio also had a stormy relationship with referees, either pushing them over, as in the case of Paul Alcock in a match for Wednesday against Arsenal in 1998 (for which he was banned for 11 matches) but Di Canio the manager is a reformed character, or so he says.
"As a manager, you can't lose your head, because you can't see, 60, 70 yards from the box. I can't go crazy, I have to give a positive message to my players.
"I don't know what my reaction will be -- maybe I'll do the same as them -- but I think you'll be surprised, to see a new Paolo di Canio: cooler, more quiet, more focused, more concentrating on what's going on."