Premier League: The Controversial Career of New Sunderland Boss Paolo Di Canio

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterApril 1, 2013

Premier League: The Controversial Career of New Sunderland Boss Paolo Di Canio

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    Few high-profile footballing figures conjure up controversy like new Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio.

    Even now, less than 24 hours after his appointment to succeed Martin O'Neill at the Stadium of Light, the former midfielder has become embroiled in a minefield over his political views.

    Sunderland vice-chairman David Miliband has stepped down from his post following the appointment of Di Canio (via BBC News), while the Black Cats have defended the Italian following his arrival (BBC Sport).

    But controversy and Di Canio have been regular bed-fellows during the former West Ham and Lazio player's time as a player and a manager.

    Here we look at a few of the incidents which have involved Di Canio.


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    Paolo Di Canio began his career in British football when he left AC Milan to join Celtic, who were then managed by the late Tommy Burns.

    The forward became a fan favourite at Parkhead where he became a member of the "Three Amigos" forward line which consisted of the Italian, Jorge Cadete and Pierre van Hooijdonk.

    However, after just one season with the Scottish club, Di Canio had a falling out with Celtic owner Fergus McCann (via Daily Telegraph) and was sold to Sheffield Wednesday.

Sheffield Wednesday

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    One incident above all is the legacy of Paolo Di Canio's time at Sheffield Wednesday, the altercation with referee Paul Alcock during a Premier League match against Arsenal in September 1998.

    Di Canio was dismissed after becoming embroiled in a confrontation with Martin Keown, but after being shown the red card, the forward shoved the match official to the ground.

    The Italian was handed an 11-match ban and fined £10,000 by the Football Association over the incident.

    But that game was to be Di Canio's last appearance for the Owls, who sold the player to West Ham in January 1999 after his relationship with Hillsborough manager Danny Wilson deteriorated (BBC Sport).

West Ham United

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    Di Canio hit the ground running at West Ham and scored five times in 13 appearances for the Upton Park club before the end of the 1998-99 season.

    The Hammers finished in fifth place that season and the Italian established a swift rapport with the supporters at the club.

    In the following campaign, he produced a goal of the season with his strike in a 2-1 win over Wimbledon at Upton Park in March 2000.

    During a Premier League match against Bradford City, Di Canio was denied three penalty appeals and demanded to be substituted after the third.

    In the same match, he argued with teammate Frank Lampard over who was going to take a penalty.

    But if there was one moment which defined Di Canio's time at West Ham, it was his sportsmanship in a game at Everton.

    With the match balanced at 1-1, Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard suffered an injury with the game still ongoing. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, Di Canio caught a cross in his hands to allow the Blues player to receive treatment.


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    After finishing his career in England with Charlton Atheltic, Di Canio moved back to Italy with Lazio where he was treated as a homecoming hero having started his career with the Serie A club in 1985.

    Di Canio had been a Lazio supporter as a boy, but he found himself in trouble with the club and the authorities for appearing to make a Fascist salute toward the fans in December 2005 (via The Mirror).

    Di Canio left Lazio at the end of that season and joined Cisco Roma where he stayed until 2008 when he retired from the game.

Swindon Town

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    Swindon Town appointed Di Canio as manager in the summer of 2011, and the Italian brought them promotion to League One within a year.

    But the former West Ham and Lazio man's time at the County Ground was not without incident.

    Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham was disgusted with Di Canio for substituting him after 22 minutes of a game at Preston North End earlier this season (BBC Sport).

    However, before that incident, Di Canio was caught up in an unsavoury scene with his own Swindon player Leon Clarke after a League Cup defeat to Southampton in August 2011 (BBC Sport).