Owls: Di Canio’s chance

Unhappy past: Paolo Di Canio, right, and Danny Wilson, left, fell out after referee controversy.
Unhappy past: Paolo Di Canio, right, and Danny Wilson, left, fell out after referee controversy.
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SHEFFIELD Wednesday’s record signing Paolo Di Canio never lacked confidence in his ability.

Now he has a special reason for wanting to demonstrate that he can be a successful manager as well as having been a brilliant, unpredictable, erratic player.

His appointment as Swindon manager lands him in the hot-seat that was vacated by Danny Wilson.

So the Italian has a chance to try to outshine his former Owls boss - after they were protagonists back in 1998.

Di Canio, who was signed by David Pleat for £4.5 million from Celtic, sensationally pushed referee Paul Alcock in a game against Arsenal at Hillsborough.

He was suspended by the club then banned for eight games by the FA and fined £10,000 - on top of a three-match ban for being sent off for kicking defender Martin Keown.

Later, he failed to report back for training and was suspended for a fortnight and fined two weeks’ wages by the club.

He claimed he was unfairly treated by the Owls. But Wilson and the then chairman Dave Richards felt that it was he who had let the club down.

It is rarely remembered that Wilson, in the early stages of the saga, stuck up for the player and urged that everyone should treat him fairly, while critics were savagely condemning him for the referee incident.

Now, at 42, and with a £2m move to West Ham also on his playing CV, Di Canio starts his managerial career in the humble surroundings of League Two.

Wilson could tell him what a tough, up-and-down game management can be.

The ex-Wednesday midfield star took Barnsley into the Premier League and was Manager of the Year.

He had a good first season at Hillsborough but was axed as the club headed towards relation the following year.

He led Bristol City into the play-offs, took MK Dons down, won promotion at Hartlepool, and last season led Swindon to the play-off final, but the loss of key players handicapped the Robins this season.

Should he land the Sheffield United job, the 51-year-old will be staying ahead of Di Canio in the managerial stakes.

Another former Wednesday player, Paul Hart, took over from Wilson at Swindon on a short-term deal but left after they were sent down by last month’s 3-1 defeat at Hillsborough.

Di Canio is due to start work on Monday.