6 Reasons for Sunderland Fans to Keep Faith with Paolo Di Canio
Paulo Di Canio's arrival at the Stadium of Light did not sit well with Sunderland fans when he was appointed manager last March.
No top-flight experience, alleged links with fascism and dodgy political beliefs; it's not hard to see why he wasn't a natural choice to replace Martin O'Neill.
The Italian's arrival on Wearside prompted an immediate resignation of former Labour MP and the side's then-vice chairman David Miliband.
But the Black Cats backed their new manager, who released this statement on the club's official website.
Fast forward five months and Di Canio is still manager at Sunderland. He kept them in the Premier League last season and will be tasked with doing the same this term, his first full campaign at the club.
So far, Di Canio has taken one point from a possible six in 2013/14 and, by his own admission, the "crows" are already circling.
But maybe, just maybe the team's fans should keep faith with their manager.
Over the next few slides we look at six reasons why Sunderland should give Di Canio a chance to turn around the club's fortunes.
6. Pulling Power
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Sunderland have signed 11 new players over the summer—spending in the region of £25 million.
It's hard to believe that players like Emanuele Giaccherini and Modibo Diakite would have come to the North East if it wasn't for Di Canio's connections in Italian football.
Diakite arrived from Lazio, one of Di Canio's former sides. The central defender is just one of four free transfers that Sunderland have captured during the transfer period.
The recruitment team that has been installed at the club is comprised of director of football Roberto Di Fanti and chief scout Valentino Angeloni.
The Italian trio share impressive contacts within football and keeping them on board could point to an exciting future for Sunderland.
For a full list of Sunderland's arrivals and departures, click here.
5. It Could Be Worse…
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If you are a Sunderland fan, feeling glum about your team's prospects under Di Canio, then stop. Just think how bad it could be. You could be supporting Newcastle United.
Yes, the Black Cats may be on their third manager in as many years, they may have flirted perilously close with relegation last season and yes, their new manager is certainly…unique.
But it could be worse. The spectre of Joe Kinnear could be hovering ominously above the Stadium of Light.
About as welcome at Newcastle as "Banquo's ghost" at a feast, Kinnear could well take over as manager at St James' Park if Alan Pardew gets the boot.
In fact, the Magpies' current boss is one of the early favourites in the manager sack race, according to the Daily Mirror, and words like turmoil, crisis and controversy are currently littering reports concerning the Tyneside club.
In stark contrast to their neighbours, Newcastle have also failed to sign reinforcements over the summer. At the time of writing, only Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy has been brought in on loan.
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Fans have an astounding ability to forgive and forget when their team are winning. Points and goals—they can paper over many cracks.
Di Canio's only prior managerial experience was at Swindon Town. His time at the County Ground was not without controversy (this is Di Canio, after all) but he won promotion to League One in his first season at the club and almost took the side into the Championship before leaving in February 2013.
Last season Sunderland finished 17th in the Premier League on 39 points, narrowly avoiding relegation. If Di Canio can improve the team and take them into the dizzy heights of the top half of the table, then the fans will grow to love him.
3. Roy Keane 2.0?
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This is not the first time the Black Cats have hired a firebrand manager, who overhauls the squad, is prone to outbursts and is known for his divisiveness in the dressing room.
When Roy Keane took over as manager in 2006, he had a massive impact on the club—leading them from the bottom of the Championship back into the top-flight in a matter of months.
Like Keane, Di Canio's tough training regime has been well documented. According to reports published over the summer, the players have carried out triple training sessions and ketchup, mayonnaise and even singing appear to have been banned by the Italian in a bid to shape up and focus his charges.
"It's a proper revolution. It's a complete revolution," Di Canio told the Daily Mail. "They have to adapt to discipline, to the new regime too. Otherwise everybody will have his own way to behave and he will be anarchist."
Keane may not have been universally loved at Sunderland and it may have ended bitterly, but the club was noticeably improved by the Irishman.
If Di Canio can employ a little more diplomacy than Keane, perhaps he and Sunderland can be happy bedfellows.
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The Premier League needs characters and Di Canio certainly fits the bill.
Whether you think of him as a pantomime villain or a refreshing break from the norm, I think we can all agree that he's big on personality.
Who wouldn't want him in the Premier League, with his crazy touchline celebrations and quotes like this: "With some players, if he has a chihuahua character I can’t make a chihuahua into a rottweiler. He could be a proud chihuahua but he remains a chihuahua."
Would you rather listen to a Steve Bruce press conference? Exactly.
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Since Keane left the club in 2008, Sunderland had three managers and one caretaker manager before appointing Di Canio.
Nowadays trigger happy club chairman offload managers at the first sign of trouble. But this doesn't always work out for the best.
If Di Canio has a poor run of games, perhaps Ellis Short will usher him toward the exit doors. But who would they replace him with? Once again, the players would have to adapt to a new manager, a new regime and a wholesale change of backroom staff.
Aston Villa's Paul Lambert is a good example of why it pays to keep the faith in a faltering manager. Last term, Lambert had to endure some torrid times in his first season at the club.
Over the Christmas period, his young side were beaten 8-0 by Chelsea, 4-0 by Tottenham Hotspur and 3-0 by Wigan. When they were eliminated from the Capital One Cup by Bradford, Lambert looked destined for the chop, but chairman Randy Lerner kept faith in the Scot.
Lambert started putting results together and finished 15th in the Premier League in 2012/13. This season, Villa look like a confident team, they managed to keep hold of Christian Benteke over the summer, their young players are exciting to watch and Villa look odds-on to finish in the top-half of the table.
A manager needs time. Sir Alex Ferguson is perhaps the most famous example of what happens when patience pays off. For Sunderland's sake, and for the sake of their fans, Di Canio should be given a chance to show what he can do.
Sunderland face Crystal Palace on Saturday at Selhurst Park. Kick-off is at GMT 17:30.