Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Di Canio, the Iron-yoked one-trick pony

Paolo Di Canio is no longer manager at Sunderland.  This must surely please most Mackem players and fans, as his thirteen-game shift produced more transfers than points won (nine from a possible 39).  His tenure ended with open popular revolt, with former captain Lee Cattermole allegedly speaking up for a free and united dressing room.

A victim of the second law of thermodynamics, Di Canio generated too much friction for his methods to be anything like sustainable.  His regular post-game player filleting was car-crash-interesting – and perhaps warranted – but ultimately meant his players sensed the division between manager and players; the blame was theirs, the credit his.  His refusal to temper his attitudes, perhaps the secret of his success as a player, was his undoing as a Premier League manager.

His story mimics that of Paul Ince, the former England captain out of his depth when he was signed from MK Dons to manage Blackburn Rovers.  Using genuine old-skool methods, Ince found himself bereft first of player confidence, and then of a job.  He only recently returned to as high as Championship standard.

The phrase “he doesn’t know when he’s beaten” is often used to compliment players.  It describes an individual of singular will who keeps throwing himself at challenges, hoping that brute force and redoubled effort will substitute for superior firepower.  In management, it’s a far less glittering reference.  The only tools a manager has are his tactical brain and communication skill; these must be refined and employed with tact in order to reach goals.  Much is made of Sir Alex Ferguson’s judicious use the hairdryer; however his best moments came not with bulging eyes and red cheeks but with backroom whispers, cod psychology and press-conference anecdotes.  The brightest days of Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Jupp Heynckes aren’t the product of shouts but of smiles.

It’s debatable whether Paolo Di Canio was ever able to relate to such a job-lot of Sunderland players, even if he had the inclination.  Had he sought to, the public dressing downs would have ceased – allowable in the lower profile Football League and taboo with myriad cameras focused on the Premiership.  Iron will became something of an iron yoke: he was a managerial one-trick pony; found out quickly and easily.

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