West Ham United: Is Paolo Di Canio the Manager-in-Waiting?

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterFebruary 19, 2013

Paolo Di Canio has resigned as Swindon Town manager.
Paolo Di Canio has resigned as Swindon Town manager.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Paolo Di Canio resigned from his managerial role at Swindon Town Monday night, prompting an immediate link with a return to West Ham United, as The Independent reported.

The Italian's decision to leave the League One promotion hopefuls has already seen a number of West Ham supporters calling for him to succeed Sam Allardyce at Upton Park.

But is the time right for Di Canio to make an emotional homecoming to the east end of London?

What Di Canio achieved at Swindon is little short of remarkable. When he was appointed to succeed Paul Hart, who had won only one of his 11 games in charge, in May 2011, the Wiltshire club had been relegated to League Two, the bottom tier of the English Football League.

The appointment of Di Canio came out of the blue. He had never worked in management before, but then-Swindon chairman Jeremy Wray and his board did not see the move as a gamble, as BBC Sport reported at the time.

Di Canio rewarded the club with promotion back to League One and a Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final appearance. Swindon are currently sixth in the table with promotion to the Championship in their sights.

But his departure from the managerial post with the Robins has already seen Di Canio linked with his former employers at West Ham (The Independent).

Di Canio has never hidden his love for the Hammers and he even has a tattoo on his arm dedicated to the Upton Park club. The club also has a lounge at Upton Park named after the former playmaker, which the player officially opened in September 2010.

The mutual admiration did not extend as far as offering Di Canio the managerial role when Avram Grant was sacked after the club were relegated in 2011, though, as club co-owner David Sullivan ruled out a move for the Hammers legend in an interview with Sky Sports News.

Allardyce was appointed West Ham boss in June 2011 but it was a decision which was not met with unanimous approval from the supporters, who perceived the former Bolton and Newcastle manager as having a direct approach to the way he wanted his teams to play.

The Hammers manager even had to defend his style in a BBC Sport interview after supporters voiced their criticism during a win at Peterborough in March 2012.

Allardyce guided West Ham back into the Premier League via a playoff final win over Blackpool in May and the team have looked comfortable in mid-table so far this season.

But club co-owner David Gold said in a statement (BBC Sport) that no decision will be made on the manager's contract, which expires this summer, until their Premier League safety is confirmed.

Allardyce himself maintained his counsel after the weekend defeat at Aston Villa, as The Independent reported.

The spectre of Di Canio now hangs heavily over Allardyce with the Italian having produced an attractive attacking style with Swindon Town, although his own description of the Capital One Cup win over Stoke as being "like Barcelona" was a touch grandiose.

Allardyce has settled West Ham after a tumultuous period for the club when they tumbled out of the top flight under Grant.

The word "settled" is not one which springs readily to mind with Di Canio, whose passionate nature as a player and manager can burst into flame at any given point.

His time as a player in Britain with Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham was littered with controversial incidents, notably his push on referee Paul Alcock during a match against Arsenal at Hillsborough in September 1998.

Di Canio's spell at Swindon has proved he is a capable manager in the lower leagues, but Allardyce has provided a steadying influence at the club. It would also be pertinent to highlight what has happened to Bolton and Blackburn since Allardyce left both clubs.

The question for Gold and Sullivan is whether they want that stability potentially disrupted by the appointment of renowned firebrand that is Di Canio, who has lost none of his ability to court controversy as a manager as an altercation with Swindon striker Leon Clarke proved.

Tellingly, Gold underlined the dilemma with a number of retweets from supporters on his Twitter feed this morning.

However, popular the appointment of Di Canio would be with the supporters and journalists alike, there remains a world of difference between Swindon and Upton Park where the stakes are so much higher.

What the Italian did during his relatively short spell at the County Ground deserves credit, but making his mark in the Championship should be where Di Canio is looking for his next role before making the step into the top flight.

West Ham should not risk the chance that he should follow that path with them.