Monsieur Salut writes: On April Fools’ Day, Bill Taylor, who has Sunderland blood running through his veins but has lived on the other side of the Atlantic most of his adult life, declared here: ‘My position is this: I will not support SAFC while this man is connected with the club.’ So, the cause of his disenchantment safely gone, we should be welcoming Bill back to the fold. Er, no. There may be only so many times you can employ the word ‘appalled’ but Bill, using up his quota, is sufficiently so to stay away. I wondered whether it would be right to allow his thoughts to be aired here and am still unsure I’ve made the right decision, but a commitment to free expression – even an article with so many assumptions I consider wrong – triumphed, in the end, over any self-righteous temptation to censor. I have, however, relegated it to yesterday’s sequence of PDC Sacking postings because the rest of us are moving on …
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck …
Turns out Paulo Di Canio WAS a fascist all along. On and off the field. And while his off-the-field credo wasn’t enough to keep him from defaming the Stadium of Light, his self-proclaimed team “regime” – a fascist word if ever there was one – did him in.
An autocratic, ask-no-questions style; ruling by edict; treating the players like recalcitrant children, with public floggings thrown in; and crude attempts at crowd manipulation. Yes, indeed. Mussolini – the man whose portrait Di Canio has tattooed on his back, with other fascist imagery – was reborn at Sunderland.
From the moment his name was mentioned as a possible replacement for Martin O’Neill, I was appalled.
Appalled that Ellis Short could be gulled into hiring such a character… a caricature, almost.
A man who has called Mussolini “basically a very principled, ethical individual… deeply misunderstood”. A man who brazenly gave the fascist salute “because it gives me a sense of belonging to my people … I saluted my people with what for me is a sign of belonging to a group that holds true values, values of civility against the standardisation that this society imposes upon us.”
A man who gave that salute at the funeral in 2010 of his friend Paolo Signorelli – Di Canio was a frequent visitor to his home – a far-right activist involved in the 1980 Bologna station terrorist attack that killed 85 people.
A man who, so many apologists insisted after his Sunderland appointment was announced, “wasn’t REALLY a fascist,” partly because he’d said that while he actually WAS, he wasn’t a racist. And that seemed to make everything all right in a lot of minds.
That was appalling, too – the number of people who said, “Let’s keep politics out of football,” disregarding the fact that fascism is far more than a political movement. It’s a totalitarian, authoritarian ideology that emphasizes ultra-nationalism and martial values. The strong survive, the weak go to the wall and a powerful leader is all-important.
Which is where Di Canio slipped up. He’s a poor leader at best, a man who talks a good game … though no, actually, he doesn’t do that very well, either.
But an appalling number of people were prepared to forgive him anything as long as he could produce results at the Stadium of Light. Which, of course, he couldn’t. There was never any chance that he would. He was out of his league before he even stepped into it. In the Premiership where the strong do indeed survive and the weak go to the wall, Di Canio took the heart, soul and guts out of the team.
What was Ellis Short thinking? We’ll probably never know.
What will be going through the mind of whoever Short hires next to try and salvage this train wreck? They’ll probably be wondering how they got themselves into such a desperate situation that they’d be prepared to take on such an uphill task.
There’s nothing like starting a job with a positive attitude. How anyone will bring a positive attitude to this job is beyond me.
Beyond that, the appalling fact remains that Ellis Short hired a fascist and a great many of the fans were happy to close their eyes to that as long as Di Canio kept Sunderland out of the Championship.
I opted out as soon as the appointment was announced. Now that Di Canio is gone, I’m staying out. I’ll still follow Sunderland’s fortunes, I’ll always regard them as my team, I’ll always wish them well.
But I’ll do it in my own way and I’ll never feel quite the same about the club. For one thing, and this is in spite of a friendship with Colin Randall that spans about half a century, I’m done with public forums such as this one. And unlike some who have left and just as quickly returned, I’m not simply saying that.
I won’t be back tomorrow.