Di Canio goes from sometime fascist to folk hero in three games
Italian will never forget what owner Ellis Short did for him
Paolo Di Canio celebrates victory with the crowd
Three games is what it has taken to turn Paolo Di Canio from sometime fascist to folk hero on Wearside. He ended an exhilarating game by punching his chest and pointing to Ellis Short, the Sunderland owner who looked down contentedly from the stands, after delivering three more points in the fight to beat relegation.
The controversy that stalked his appointment has abated but still hovers in the background. Di Canio alluded to it when explaining the gesture to Short. “It was respect because of the decision he made.
“At this level, to make the decision a few weeks ago, with all the turbulence that happened, it wasn’t easy because it reflected on him,” Di Canio said, of how his appointment drew criticism because of his questionable politics.
“I couldn’t see him, obviously, in the last two games. But the fact he came today – we gave to him the first home win for the club, the fans, and that was fantastic. I pointed at everybody, but at the end I said thanks to him because I know what it means to make a decision at this level.
Never going to forget
“For this, I’m never going to forget it, even if he sacks me tomorrow morning, because of the opportunity he gave me. With the pressure he was under, it wasn’t easy and I was very happy for him.”
Di Canio is pure box office in his relationship with the players and crowd. Yet a focus on claiming victory was illustrated by the refusal to milk the applause before kick-off on the occasion of a first home game in charge. The second half was under way before Di Canio gave a wave to fans who sang his name throughout.
Sunderland deserved victory against a tame Everton side that lacked imagination and energy. Stephane Sessegnon’s strike came on the stroke of half-time when loose play from Leighton Baines handed him the ball.
Sessegnon drove towards Tim Howard’s goal, then shot from 30 yards to beat him low to his right.
Sunderland have become a team invigorated. It is like Di Canio has injected the players with his boundless energy and will-to-win as these qualities spilled from them throughout.
Of Sessegnon, he said: “He can do much better. He’s an amazing footballer, he’s got quality.
“I know he was also used as a winger, but up and down is not his proper job because in there you need to have a desire to run up and down like James and Adam. We have to use him in the final third when he can turn and go one-v-one.
“Look at James McClean. He has to understand that he’s a very lucky guy. He probably deserves what he has got, but he is also very lucky to have the position he has and he has to work hard during training sessions and play with team-mates and forget about playing on his own.
“He made a fantastic performance, but sometimes he does tippy-tappy for showmanship. And also sometimes in training sessions, for one and a half or two hours, it’s important to show those habits of passion, dedication and desire.
“The desire to suffer.”