Paolo Di Canio in charge of Sunderland – what do we make of that!?
It is very, very difficult to predict how this goes, as it could easily be a masterstroke or a death knell for Sunderland.
Obviously it’s a very brave appointment, and there are of course a few reasons which make it easy to understand why Sunderland would choose him.
He undoubtedly did a very good job at Swindon Town, and has the potential to become an even better manager in the future. He gets a lot out of his players; I believe he keeps them training and working hard and there’s generally a good atmosphere when he is around.
He appears to be a perfectionist when it comes to football, but that is also where the downsides come into play.
As we’ve seen in some highly-publicised moments from his Swindon tenure, he has no qualms substituting players early and even falling out with them if he’s not happy with something. I’m not convinced that extreme man-management style will work at the top level.
Di Canio in interviews often complained about having to deal with arrogant and lazy players in League One and League Two. Imagine what he will make of out-of-form Premier League footballers!
He does have very high expectations. He seems to expect every player who answers to him to play as he played, and to devote themselves to football the way he did.
He gave 100 per cent as a player and he will not tolerate anything less from anyone associated with him, and on the plus side he should in theory have more players capable of providing this at the top level than in the lower leagues.
Personally, I think he will give them an initial spark. The side as of late have looked lifeless to me, even at the start of games, and Di Canio will change that fast. He will demand more tempo, more intensity than the Black Cats have provided so far this season.
But beyond May, I am not sure.
He will not get away with some of the explosive antics he used at Swindon to show everyone who the boss is. He will have to curb his enthusiasm if he is to see out the entirety of this two-and-a-half year deal.
The spotlight will be on him week in, week out, and opposing Premier League players and managers already know they can wind him up. You can be sure they will take every opportunity they get, too.
We all remember how fiery he was as a Premier League player, for better or worse. As a manager, however, you can only get away with so much in the top flight.
As for his controversial political views, I do not think they matter as much as David Miliband seems to think they do, judging by his knee-jerk reaction.
At the end of the day, Sunderland have made a football appointment. They hired Di Canio for results, results that will keep them in the Premier League.
Some people will read into his political views more than is necessary in a footballing context, but I think they are his private views and they will not affect how he does his job.
Whether Paolo succeeds or fails at helping the Mackems survive, we all know he will tackle this task head-on. And he will have to, as there are clearly some issues at the club.
Three weeks ago we thought they were fine for mid-table mediocrity, but they are not playing well and they are not scoring goals. They probably need someone like Di Canio to breathe new life into the club, and I think he will be able to get the two or three wins they need to stay up.