Ex-Celtic & Aston Villa boss says 'brilliant' ex-Sheffield Wednesday star 'couldn't manage a fish supper'

Martin O’Neill has criticised the managerial ability of one former Sheffield Wednesday as he sparked an old feud
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Former Sunderland, Aston Villa and Celtic manager Martin O’Neill has claimed Pablo Di Canio ‘couldn't manage a fish supper’ as he sparked an 11-year-old quarrel with the ex-Sheffield Wednesday player.

Di Canio, who spent 18 months at Hillsborough between 1997 and 1999, moved into management following his playing career as he took over from O’Neill at Sunderland in March 2013 and kept the Black Cats in the Premier League but was sacked in September 2013 after a poor start to the following campaign.

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The Italian had lashed out at O’Neill following his arrival at the Stadium of Light as he claimed the squad was not fit enough under O’Neill. The Northern Irishman has now given a fresh take on the comments made by Di Canio, as he said on talkSPORT, via the Sunderland Echo: "I was the manager of Sunderland and left Sunderland and Paolo Di Canio came in who made references to fitness. He lasted about 16 weeks himself, including pre-season in there, and finally lost his job because the squad weren't fit enough themselves.

"So it bounced back on him. He was a brilliant, brilliant player but couldn't manage a fish supper at the end of the day. It does rebound on you, it does. You can't talk about the previous regime's fitness. It might be right but don't be starting [the job] publicly saying because it can come back to haunt you.

"Paolo stepped in there and basically, as weeks ran on, he ran out of excuses. I had a wry smile to myself. It's like a 27-year-old manager stepping in and the first thing you do is criticise the fitness of the team beforehand. If you've ever seen Aston Villa play, you'll see the one thing I pride myself on is teams being fit.

"What you'll find interesting is that when he started the team wasn't fit for the Chelsea game. Then the following week when he won at Newcastle, not being fit wasn't mentioned. Then about two weeks later they got mauled by Aston Villa, someone asked him about the fitness. Suddenly, he didn't know where to go. Because the team, as it progresses, should be getting more fit.

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"And then, at the start of the season, when he lost by a late goal at Southampton, he was asked about the fitness regime, that he was going to have them the fittest team in the league. Suddenly, the fitness wasn't for that game but for Christmas, when the winter months set in. You know, I did have a wry smile at that one."

Di Canio arrived in South Yorkshire from Celtic for around £4m in August 1997 and was Wednesday’s top scorer in his debut season. However, in September 1998 he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the turf after being sent off against Arsenal and was handed an 11-game ban before moving to West Ham in January 1999.

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