Di Canio's fiery methods light blaze of glory for Swindon
Paolo Di Canio won just as many friends as enemies on the way in a playing career full of contradictions.
It appears the boom-or-bust managerial appointment of Di Canio, albeit with upwardly-mobile League Two club Swindon Town, is moving in a similar path. From earning an 11-match ban for pushing over referee Paul Alcock 14 years ago at Sheffield Wednesday to winning a FIFA Fair Play award in 2001 at West Ham, the Italian maverick was always in danger of going off at any given time.
Anyone at the County Ground, who saw him mastermind the shock FA Cup scalp of Wigan, will have seen that he remains that human firecracker still ready to explode. Management has yet to mellow the 43-year-old enigma. But perhaps there is more than meets the eye with Di Canio. Behind the cajoling, barracking and constant engagement of dialogue to anyone within earshot of the dugout, there were the signs of a new Di Canio.
Preaching self-control, discipline and restraint to his players in the aftermath of Paul Benson's scruffy late goal that would eventually send Swindon through to the fourth round, Di Canio showed a side to him that suggests passion is not the overriding factor on his CV.
"There is nothing like playing for Paolo Di Canio," revealed striker Alan Connell, whose equaliser set Swindon on the way to their upset.
"He was passionate as a player and he's carried that trait into management. His attention to detail is incredible, but it's his passion which rubs off on the players."
That word passion appears to crop up quite a lot when Di Canio is involved. It's hard not see beyond that. No doubt Leon Clarke, the striker removed from the club after a publicised spat with Di Canio, will vouch for that.
The same could be said for the FA's disciplinary panel as they studied footage of his dash onto the pitch to join the goal celebrations in the closing stages at Northampton on New Year's Eve. But, for once, this wasn't just the Di Canio show. Wigan might have made wholesale changes, but Swindon had no right to outpass, outthink and outplay their Premier League opponents.
Even after Callum McManaman had swept Wigan ahead, converting the rebound after Ben Watson's penalty 35th minute had struck a post, you sensed there was always a whiff of an upset in the air. It was no surprise, with chances having come and gone, when Connell flicked home Matt Ritchie's cross barely five minutes later.
Swindon continued to charge forward, bossed the tie and were duly rewarded when Ritchie's shot was diverted past Ali Al-Habsi by sub Benson in the 76th minute. (© Independent News Service)