Ireland boss has pop at Di Canio but backs Keane to progress

Paul Hyland

MARTIN O'NEILL served himself a dish of cold revenge when he filleted Paolo di Canio on the occasion of his unveiling as Ireland boss.

And anyone who wondered about his motivation for accepting the Ireland job only had to look at the glint in his eye as he dismissed the Italian with scorn.

"Paolo di Canio? That managerial charlatan?" he said with a thin smile when asked about Sunderland and events at the Stadium of Light since he left.

"Paolo stepped in there and basically, as weeks ran on, he ran out of excuses. I had a wry smile to myself ... " he said, his voice trailing off before piling in.

"It's like a 27-year-old manager stepping in and the first thing you do is criticise the fitness of the team beforehand. If you've ever seen Aston Villa play, one thing I pride myself on is that the team is fit," he said.

"So it's an easy one, an easy one to level."


As he did all afternoon, O'Neill quickly diluted any potential points of contention with humour but still managed to ridicule Di Canio.

"I'm hoping at some stage if John O'Shea asked me at a dinner table to pass him the tomato sauce that I would dispose of it immediately, but then I feel as if you can't win the games not having tomato sauce.

"I will empty it on his plate with the chips," he said, underlining Di Canio's odd sense of priorities in terms of his players' diets.

O'Neill hit all the right notes when talking about Roy Keane and the potential for disaster which many believe is lurking around the corner.

He pointed out with a smile that journalists will have to mind their Ps and Qs around his No 2 when quizzed about Keane's capacity for outspoken verbal grenades.


"That might be top of the agenda with my next meeting with him," he said to much laughter. "I think Roy himself has grown since his time in management. He's had a wee bit of time to reflect.

"I think he will feel that he might have attacked certain things a wee bit differently but again, I don't want Roy to lose all those things that make him endearing to you. I use that word advisedly.

"But seriously, those things that make him big, big news. The lads (journalists) here with him at Sunderland, they will tell you, he scared the crap out of you, didn't he?

"I think he has a great hunger to do it. I think he wants to and, genuinely, I think he wants to prove himself and improve himself in management.

"This might be the best way for him at the moment, it might be. I fully expect him, after the contracts have finished, to go on and manage."