West Ham, Lazio, Swindon and now Sunderland: bring in the accused

Jake asks the question of the day
Jake asks the question of the day

Monsieur Salut was watching/nodding off to a French crime reconstruction programme, Faites entrer l’accusé (see headline for translation) when news reached him that Paolo Di Canio had been appointed head coach of Sunderland. Di Canio may feel like the accused when he takes his place in the dock at the Stadium of Light for the press conference. He must speak for himself.

David Miliband’s decision to stand down in protest as vice-chairman may be taken as a part principle, part expediency. He’s off the the US anyway. But there are plenty of others among Sunderland supporters who find this a disturbing move on Ellis Short’s part. M Salut has been roundly condemned by a noble jury of readers over at ESPN for voicing his own reservations (see http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/1322?cc=5739. There is something so – oh what is it? – fascistic, about implying that an individual has no right to express strongly held views whether that individual happens to be Di Canio or M Salut. Pete Sixsmith feels more strongly still and has the stirrings of rebellion in his heart

In the 1955 Broadway show,
Damn Yankees, a long suffering baseball fan sells his soul to the devil in return for his team, the hapless Washington Senators, having a good season and defeating the despised New York Yankees. The devil is disguised as a salesman called Mr Applegate. Mr Applegate appears to be alive and well and in contact with Ellis Short.

The Di Canio appointment was not foreseen by this writer. Poyet, di Matteo, McClaren, Hughes – all experienced out of work managers – were the names being thrown around in discussions on Saturday night and Sunday morning. The former Swindon Town manager, out of work since he left the club over the selling of a player to promotion rivals Bournemouth, was considered and dismissed in the time it takes to butter a slice of toast.

And then we heard that he was on his way to the North East and that he was likely to sign a deal. No discussions, no long drawn out negotiations between the club and his agent, he was going to take the job. What does this tell us?

Clearly, the preliminary work had been going on secretly for a period of time, probably since the abject surrender in Shepherds Bush. A deal had been struck and terms had been fixed and as soon as O’Neill’s disappointing tenure was up, the final move was made. The King is dead, long live the King.

Designging a post-MoN banner is going to be tricky. Jake has opened talks
Designging a post-MoN banner is going to be tricky. Jake has opened talks

It is as left field an appointment as you could come up with and on a par with the bizarre appointment of Howard Wilkinson – although I don’t remember Wilkinson avowing his love of Sir Oswald Mosley. Here we are, staring relegation in the face and we appoint a man who has managed in the lower divisions and who is as divisive a figure as you could come up with.

After two appointments of experienced managers who have not fulfilled their obligations to the club, the owner has thrown away the Niall Quinn Book of Football Managers and has gone for a real maverick, a man who has personality, flair and madness but who has flaws as big as the Grand Canyon running through him.

His former chairman at Swindon speaks well of him. The Town fans loved him for his outbursts, his passion and his ability to get ordinary players do extraordinary things. But that was against Accrington and Plymouth, not Chelsea and Everton.

Others are not as complimentary. One Swindon director said his tenure at the County Ground was “management by hand grenade” which may or may not be what a struggling team with little confidence need.

But with Di Canio there is a huge amount of baggage that comes with him and that baggage is political. He has declared himself “a Fascist, not a racist” and has made it clear that he admires Benito Mussolini, the Italian founder of fascism and dictator of that country from 1922 to 1944.

He has the Latin word “dux” tattooed on his arm. Translated into modern Italian, it becomes “Duce”, Leader, the title Mussolini gave himself after he seized power in Italy 90 years ago. In Mussolini’s world, there was only one leader and he forced through the will of the people and woe betides those who opposed that will.

Mussolini had been a Socialist and had edited the Socialist newspaper Avanti, but he saw all established politicians as weak and corrupt, prompting him to set up a national movement based on all coming together for the common good. Taking the old Roman symbol of bound pieces of wood to signify strength, he established the PNF which became the ruling party for 20 years.

There are photographs of him stripped to the waist, his huge barrel chest glistening with sweat after he had helped a farmer to bring in his harvest. Dignitaries flocked to Rome to see how he had transformed a disparate society into a united one. He had many admirers in this country. He talked of strength and unity and glory – “it is better to live one day as a lion than one thousand as a lamb” was the mantra taught in schools.

But much of it was show. He liked the big gesture. Draining the Pontine Marshes outside of Rome was one of them. It played a major part in eradicating malaria but the workers were housed in camps surrounded by barbed wire, were paid low wages for long hours and could be summarily dismissed.

And he believed in the racial superiority of the Aryan and Mediterranean races. The white races were there to rule over the inferior blacks in Africa. That may not go down well with our current sponsors.

His fall from grace was ignominious. He left Rome for the North and ran a puppet state from the lakeside town of Salo. He ended up hanging from a lamppost in Milan, strung up by the heels.

Sixer: not a happy man
Sixer: not a happy man

So, we have a head coach who admires this blustering bully who was seen as a figure of fun by many in Britain but who imprisoned without trial, closed down newspapers and formed an alliance with Hitler. Di Canio comes to a city where the English Defence League has a strong and noisy presence. They may welcome him. I am not sure I do.

In Damn Yankees, the Senators get to beat the Yankees and Applegate turns up to claim the fans’ soul. He fails and they all live happily ever after. I doubt that we shall after this incredibly divisive appointment.

28 thoughts on “West Ham, Lazio, Swindon and now Sunderland: bring in the accused”

  1. I didn’t realise racism was a cause for the Left. The libertarians apparently would accept a manager no matter what. So, for example, if a convicted rapist or child molester applied he’d be ok……as long as the results were ok! I’ve used deliberately emotive examples to make the point. And yet they are no more emotive than race

    Racism is alive and kicking. Football has a real problem in 2013 with racism….ask Danny Rose about the England U21 games. The Independent article is a piece of damage control…PR if you will. The pictures from 2005 show the truth. Has he undergone a Damascus style conversion in the last 8 years? The Italian authorities fined and banned him. He was not a child when this happened.

    The DMA action speaks volumes. A principled action that I wholly support

    I’m sorry that so many of you take issue with my stance as indicated by the thumbs down. I try to avoid labels eg left right or in Geordiedoonsouth’s case ‘wanker’. The problem with this appointment is that it’s more than a label. SAFC is not like any other club. It has a heart and soul that move us to care about those less well disposed to care for themselves. Is this left wing?

    Our light shines a little less brightly today. I will exercise my right to vote with my feet. When he’s gone I’ll return and not before. Hardly the end if the world. One fan watching Farsley Celtic…..or even Leeds Rhinos…..who knows

    To those who create and contribute to this site thank you. To the ill-informed, the wind-up merchants, the ends-justify-the-means types, I wish you well and hope for more light to shine on you

    • Er, no you didn’t. If by your comment you were attempting to be witty/ funny you should ensure that your facts are right in order to make the attempt work.

      It was neither right, witty or funny which is a close to a hatrick that the mags will get all season!

      But keep trying as your contributions to this site always light up a dull week.

  2. I’ve just read the Independent article re Di Canio and one or two others. It seems he’s not actually involved in political activity or indeed a ‘political animal’ but perhaps more of an admirer of the idea of strong leadership, discipline etc.

    I’m still concerned however as fascism is as stated above a dictatorial ideology and difficult to divorce from notions or racial superiority. I’m going to have to think long and hard about this and take close notice of what is said in public pronouncements by Di Canio in the next few days.

    Incidentally, I’m not influenced by Milliband or his going.

    • Geordiedoonsooth, although the swastika was a popular symbol in art prior to the regimental use by Nazi Germany and has a long heritage in many other cultures throughout history, due to its association with the Nazi, the swastika is often considered synonymous with Nazism. However Geordidoonsooth Mussolini used an old Roman symbol, the Fasces.

      German = Swastika, Italian = Fasces……..Simples

      Trust a mag to lower the tone

  3. I find it amazing that those of a left wing persuasion will criticise those of the right for possessing the same ambitions as themselves.

    Maybe, they should remember that the extreme wings of each ideology are not diametrically opposed but (when thought of as a clock) separated by less than one second at midnight.

    Both extremes wish to control thoughts, curtail freedom of speech, the press etc etc, one using capitalism as a launch pad and the other state control (ostensibly “the people” but nothing could be further from the truth) of everything.

    On the left, think of Joe Gormley and then Arthur Scargill, both socialists but one far more extreme than the other and ask yourself which one was responsible for the destruction of the UK mining industry.

    Conveniently, those on the left will attempt (flying in the face of common sense) to blame Margaret Thatcher because to do otherwise, they feel, would betray their socialist beliefs.

    Instead, they, conveniently, ignore the way that the NUM was used as a political tool to bring down a democratically elected government and attempt to switch the blame to someone who was not prepared to see that happen again!

    Likewise, the abuse of power exercised by the Nazis, in Germany, is then used to condemn anyone of a right wing persuasion, by evoking the emotive word “fascist” – conveniently ignoring the way that they had transformed the country’s economy and its’ population’s self worth in next to no time!

    In Italy, Mussolini even managed something that had, previously, proved impossible – getting the nation’s trains to run on time!

    Indeed, it now seems that anyone who proclaims themselves to be proud of their British heritage/history is now labelled a racist by the same bigoted hypocrites!

    However, they are not above using the same tactics as those they, publicly, deride.

    It was Joseph Goebbels who stated:

    “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”

    Rant over!!

    • I used to live(at the time 28 Clareville Road Darlington), with a certain Alan Hopper, now deceased, brother of David Hopper the General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association. He (Alan) was an ARDENT socialist but with some VERY STRONG right wing views.

      Rest in Peace Alan!

      Sunderland ‘political capital'(for some) of the UK for a short time!

      • I had pretty extensive experience of dealing with union officials during my 30 years as a manager, and I can tell you that an apparent contradiction in political beliefs, is not uncommon. Strange world.

  4. The Independent article referred to above is interesting and suggests a more balanced situation – although it is clearly written by a Di Canio fan, who loves him enough to gloss over anything distasteful.

    I think the Di Canio ideology is difficult to pin down, because the bloke has a screw loose and doesn’t seem to me to fully understand himself or what he’s all about. He’s an accident waiting to happen.

    This is the first time in my life where the appointment of a new manager has taken on a non-footballing dimension (and I’ve been going to games since 1962) and it gives me a strange and uneasy feeling. I DON’T WANT to have a crisis of conscience and I DON’T WANT my relationship with the club to become a moral dilemna!

    I dunno….maybe nothing matters but the actual football. Maybe Terry Butcher was a member of the National Front and we just never knew about it. Maybe Roy Keane was really a Klingon (he has the furrowed brow). I just dunno what to think, but it’s certainly created a powderkeg situation when we’re already in deep crap.

    I would like to hear what Short has to say about it – but I suspect that he has simply had enough of being advised by so-called “football people” and realised that he’s £100 million down and we’re still crap – so anything he does can’t be any worse and he may as well make his own mistakes.

    • Good post Mick. The aforementioned article does give you a hint that di canio could be at home in Sunderland after all, Swindon as a place is not dissimilar, an industrial town with a strong mining heritage, wages aren’t high but the locals work hard. sounds as if di canio appreciates that and also speaks of how important it is that club and community are happy. so none of us know his real political views, if he openly came out and said he wished Hitler had prevailed then that’s different.

      There are a few parallels with Roy Keane. Keane proved to be a psycho who couldn’t man manage but certainly frightened some limited individuals into performing better than they did for McCarthy. but we needed him at the time, we all know what desperate times call for and here we are. Whatever happens I respect Ellis shorts attempt at saving us rather than seeing us sleepwalk into the championship.

    • And id Pdc keeps us up and the other baggage is causing major problems then we sack him in June and pay him off. Makes financial sense.

    • Mick, I feel much as you do. I always regarded DiCanio as a bit of a basket-case [ probably in a similar way as I do Balotelli, Keane, or indeed, Gazza ]

      I have a deep distrust of the habit of the media, in all it’s various forms, has of digging up something that was said or done, in the past , [ often out of context ] to attempt to define or bracket that individual today. I am old enough to remember the vitriolic response in the USA in the sixties to an reported off-guard comment made by John Lennon about religion.

      Clearly, O’Neill had to go. I am only surprised that it took so long. It was clear to me weeks ago that, for whatever reason, he was simply going through the motions of being a football club manager.

      I dispair at the seeming inability of football club owners and directors, to appoint reasonably competent people to run the performance side of the business. Perhaps this reflects the difficulty involved in getting teams of individuals to co-operate effectively. Only very few people over the years have had lasting success.

      Is DiCanio the right man? Who knows? I would suggest that he would have a better chance than most of galvanising the present group of clueless, demotivated, deadheads into producing some sort of last ditch survival exercise, which would have been quite impossible under MO’N.

      Whatever the outcome of this season, I don’t want hysteria and predudice to determine who manages Sunderland.

  5. I hoped that the date might have something to do with this announcement…. and that we could wake up tomorrow and find that Kevin Ball had been given temporary charge for the last 7 games…. Keane on Valium I could have taken – but on steroids?

  6. How can we leave political concerns out of this? We aren’t talking Tory v Labour here, we’re talking about a person who believes in fascism: in the right of ‘superior’ people having the right to destroy the weak or inferior! This actually isn’t about politics: it’s about society and morality. Our club is one with a strong community background, a culture of supprting those less able in society and we’ve appointed a man with the polar opposite social viewpoint. No, I won’t say I’m on the point of walking away because of the football, I’ve watched far worse in my 40 years of support. I’m on the point of walking away because the views of the manager are repugnant to me and any right thinking individual. He is a senior representative of the club and its supporters and the region. His views go beyond politics and football and most certainly do not reflect mine or the area into which he has moved.
    And this doesn’t even begin to relect my other worries about his man-management style and ego-driven outbursts: Keane on steroids indeed. And we all know how that turned out.

    • “We’re talking about a person who believes in fascism: in the right of ‘superior’ people having the right to destroy the weak or inferior!”

      Try reading the article and then commenting.

      You may well change your viewpoint!

    • I take your point, and agree wholeheartidly that extreme right wings views are repugnant and morally abhorrent. But taking your argument to a logical extension regarding the role of the manager I never once considered Steve Bruce to represent me or any Sunderland fan, his views (particularly regarding our footballing ability) were his own and came from his own perception of the situation. In the same measure I do not regard Di Canio as representing me or other supporters or the region.

      I am afraid we will have to use the usual get out clause and say the opinions expressed by the manager are his own and not those of the Club.

      We live in a supposed democracy where freedom speech is enshrined as a god given right and as Voltaire allegedly quoted ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” are we not now being hypocritical regarding these same rights? Should whether some one gets a job depend upon their political leanings, does it effect their ability to do the job…that way madness lies.

      Each individual will have to make up their own minds as to whether a persons politcal affiliations effect their support for said person or for their football team and act accordingly, but from now in lets get back to the football and leave politics out.

  7. It’s surprising how these political concerns never seemed to be an issue at Celtic or Swindon- the Magedia perhaps?If so, it appears to be working in our discussing political background rather than managerial ability.It is a radical move and might end in tears but I’m right behind it for sadly I could see nothing but relegation in our recent performances as we were sleepwalking towards the inevitable.

  8. I’d be more worried about the West Ham tattoo he has than the Dux one

    what’s the point having a manager where you know that the second one of your rivals comes calling he’s off

  9. I stopped going to SOL last season , was sick of the clueless , defensive dross that MON served up . I couldn’t care a hoot about PDC ‘s political views , he’s not here to promote political views , he;s here to promote Sunderland Football Club , and if he can change things round then he has my full support . I think everyone is blowing up out of proportion a few offhand politcal comments

  10. Reading the earlier contributions on this theme I am left puzzled. Some say doubters should “go and support the Mags”…obviously meant as an insult and ironically a very black and white view of the world. Some say those who allow politics to interfere with their support of SAFC should take a long hard look at themselves. They contrast fascism with being a capitalist or worse a Tory. This demonstrates a worrying misunderstanding of politics. Tories, though vile, are part of our liberal democracy. Fascists just don’t do that representative thing. How many black players have to be harassed by thugs with fascistic leanings before we recognise it’s a problem? Today …not yesteryear. The fight against fascism goes on and football is not exempt from the challenge. SAFC has a proud history of defending those in need. Those old enough to remember the Miners’ strike will recall the buckets collecting monies to support miners’ families. Should such activities be stopped as deemed too political? Our sponsorship is political…surely? Having done the stadium tour a number of times the bit that moistens the eye isn’t the pics of 73 but the NUM lodge banner proudly hung. My view is tainted as my grandfather was a miner there and chose to forego protected job status to fight fascists. So sorry for those purists who distance themselves from politics but in good conscience I can’t. I’ve spent more than most at the SoL and will not contribute to the wages of a fascist. I will email the club to voice my concerns

  11. Masses of reaction, too, at our Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/salutsunderland/505940076131369/ – including this from our contributor Gareth Barker:

    “I’m really confused about all of it. There are quotes in which he praises Mussolini, but others in which he refers to him as vile. My initial reaction was one of sheer devastation, I have been very critical of Di Canio and his political position. I decided to do a bit of reading and I have no idea what to think.

    For those wanting some facts from the other side before forming your opinion, check out @marcotti on twitter. If you’re not a member, I think you can still read his timeline. There’s also an excellent independent article doing the rounds which gives some balance.

    I’ve no idea what to think anymore. Just remember that Sunderland AFC will be around long after
    you, me and Paolo are long gone and we all support the football club.

    Oh and Miliband can get knotted by the way. If I was him I wouldn’t bother taking my high horse to New York with me. As far as I know, Paolo Di Canio wasn’t part of an administration that began an illegal war in Iraq which saw the death of thousands. Miliband was. He also took over 100k in wages for about 3 weeks work. Labour politician is a true oxymoron when it comes to these detestable characters.

    Maybe we should have all been more annoyed when this clown got involved?”

    • I note that SalutSunderland is engaing with Mr Marcotti on the Di Canio thing: https://twitter.com/Marcotti

      Have always thought he talked a lot of sense on football generally but I note that he did ghost the new manager’s autobiography.

      He seems to think that Di Canio is not a nazi just a product of his ‘Ultra’ background. Some might say that there is little to choose between those two standpoints.

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