THE words ‘Paolo,’ ‘Di’ and ‘Canio’ were declared off limits before Danny Wilson’s media briefing at Shirecliffe yesterday.
But when Sheffield United’s manager breezed into the room housing the region’s press, coffee in hand and smile etched across face, he showed no such reticence about discussing the threat the combustible Italian’s team will pose at the County Ground this evening.
Swindon Town, Wilson declared, represent the greatest danger to the visitors’ unbeaten run since League One competition resumed in August. United, who last tasted defeat over the course of 90 minutes at MK Dons seven months ago, would have to be at their “very best” to depart Wiltshire with that proud record still intact.
“They’re very strong,” Wilson acknowledged. “They’ve got a very strong squad and the recruitment there recently has been very heavy.
“Lots of quality has been brought in and they play some very good stuff. Arguably, on paper, they are one of the best teams we are going to come up against.
“They’re a very good footballing side and, because we also like to play whenever possible, I think this is going to be a game for the neutrals to enjoy.”
Fourteen years have passed since Di Canio’s shove on referee Paul Alcock thrust Wilson, then Sheffield Wednesday manager, into the midst of a media maelstrom. Time, it appears, it appears, has not been a great healer.
Di Canio, who departed Hillsborough soon after that act of petulance cost him an 11 match ban and £10,000 fine, is perhaps the game’s most complicated characters.
Capable of great acts of sportsmanship one moment - he later received FIFA recognition for refusing to score past the injured Paul Gerrard during a Premier League fixture between West Ham and Everton - the former Lazio midfielder’s fascist beliefs prompted the GMB union to withdraw their sponsorship of Swindon soon after his appointment in May 2011. The word ‘DUX’ - s sobriquet for Benito Mussolini - is tattooed on his right arm.
Swindon, seventh in the table after gaining promotion last term, will be without the suspended Aden Flint for tonight’s game against the division’s second placed side. Di Canio, who wants to fine his players for “unprofessional behaviour” during Saturday’s FA Cup reverse by Macclesfield, is unable to select the defender until November 24.
Wilson, unlikely to make wholesale changes following United’s first round triumph over Bristol Rovers, is looking forward to locking horns with a club he led into the play-off final two years before repeating the trick with his latest employers earlier this year.
“I’ve got some very good memories from our time there,” Wilson said. “We turned the club around quickly and the only sadness was not being able to get up.
“Swindon have a different outlook now as, back then, it’s well known they were struggling for cash.”
“I don’t know what reception I’ll get,” he added. “The only thing I am bothered about is coming back with the points.”
Teams and ref
SWINDON (possible): Foderingham, Archibald-Henville, McEveley, Devera, Thompson, Ward, Ferry, Roberts, Williams, De Vita, Rooney (4-4-2).
UNITED (possible): Long, McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill, Flynn, Doyle, McDonald, Williams, Blackman, Porter (4-4-2).
Oliver Langford: Langford, from the West Midlands, averages only 1.3 cautions per game this season and a red card every six. He officiated back to back games involving Sheffield United and Swindon Town last October and sent off an opposition player in both with Charlie Daniels, then of Leyton Orient, and Bradford City’s Andrew davies receiving their marching orders.