Sunderland beyond doubt have taken a colossal risk in their appointment of Paolo Di Canio but one could have done without the meaningless and self serving resignation as some kind of a director of David Milliband.
In fact this defeated politician, off to the lucrative realms of charity in the States, will at least save Sunderland the money – £125,000 of it down the drain so far – which they paid him as a meaningless figurehead, with no football connection at all, albeit he may be a Londoner though he inexorably is to have somehow sat for a local constituency.
Yes Paolo is an unrepentant Fascist. Yes he naively and perversely idolised Benito Mussolini that monstrous charlatan who dragged Italy into a war in which they eventually suffered appalling losses and atrocities. Yes, he was essentially a posturing blowhard, the modern equivalent of the heroic condottiere, lives bewilderingly and paradoxically on not least in the person of Silvio Berlusconi.
When he was at West Ham I came to know and like Di Canio who whatever the public perception has charm and humour as well, as a player, unusual talents. He could score astonishing goals. There was that quixotic moment when, playing for West Ham against Everton, he refused to exploit an unguarded goal when the opposing keeper Paul Gerrard was injured. Violent incidents peppered his playing career, ferocious confrontations with the likes of Gianni Trappatoni and Fabio Capello.
There were explosive moments at Swindon too where he ruled with a rod of iron. Whether he can do as much with the players of a Premiership club remains to be seen.
Should Martin O’Neill have been sacked? A more pertinent question might be, was this the time for its Irish-American owner Ellis Short to do it, so perilously late in the day. For the Sunderland players and fans alike, this comes as a culture shock.
Oh dear! The pipsqueaks are pip squeaking again. This time chiefly about supposed “racist” chanting by England fans in San Marino who were abusing the Ferdinand brothers with supposed overtones of racism.
The inevitable Piara Powar, executive director of something called FARE, who wasn’t there himself, speaks of potential undercurrents. Sensationally silly headlines have alas played his game suggesting that in consequence, England have been reported to FIFA and might face not only a fine but the prospect of sanctions on Wembley. Meanwhile no hard evidence has been produced.
No one, as my readers surely know, has among journalists taken a stronger and earlier line against racism than myself, but to promote fatuous charges like this simply weakens the case against the real and repulsive things.
And talking of pipsquekery, on England’s recent forays into Europe, junior employees of the FA staff have intervened both officiously and needlessly to prevent perfectly valid questions being asked by the English press at conferences. Let us hope that the appointment of the robust Greg Dyke as top banana will put an end to this sort of busy idleness.
I, for one am not in mourning at the going of David Bernstein, who deprived John Terry of the England captaincy before he had even appeared in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court and whose “brave” solitary stand against the re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA President however seemingly brave and bold was sadly irrelevant.