Extra time with Paolo Di Canio

With Arsenal putting teams to the sword as they set the pace in the Premier League, it's like 2003/04 all over again, writes Matt Wright.

 

That was when the Invincibles romped to a championship success that remains Arsene Wenger's last league title - a statistic that was barely imaginable as the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and, erm, Pascal Cygan, swept all before them.

 

Only 10 clubs managed to stave off defeat against the marauding strength of that undefeated Gunners side, but none did so quite like Charlton, thanks to the impudent chipped penalty contribution of Paolo Di Canio in late October.

 

In search of something in the loft a few months ago, I came across an old Christmas card I received in the middle of that 2003/04 season. From none other than Di Canio.

 

The mercurial Italian, as complicated as he is seemingly crazy, had recently been sacked as Sunderland manager, with his departure prompting all kinds of strange stories regarding his training methods and bizarre rules for players.

 

Indeed, Di Canio has generated controversy and headlines throughout his career - the only exception perhaps being when he found refuge in a small corner of South-East London.

 

I therefore thought it was the perfect time to reassess the Italian's time at The Valley, which included the bizarre incident of a tangle with Danny Mills in which neither player was the villain and culminated in Charlton's highest ever finish in the Premier League.

 

From Di Canio's arrival in an unprecedented blaze of publicity to his sudden and meek departure by issuing a brief statement, the full story, including plenty of behind-the-scenes vignettes, can be read in issue 108 of Voice of The Valley.

 

Di Canio stayed in SE7 for exactly one year, scored five goals (all of which coincidentally came in games that ended in draws after 90 minutes), and arguably proved more influential off the pitch than in a playing role.

 

But despite his short time at the club and lack of maverick behaviour (or behaviour that didn't receive wider press coverage anyway), he was still able to cement himself in the minds of a vast number of supporters as one of the most memorable players in the club's history.

 

After all, when even a goal like this one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zq7Oi2o-Zec) by Henry in front of the Sky cameras at The Valley is overshadowed by Di Canio, you know you are in the presence of something special.

 

Remember Di Canio in vi-deo

 

"Andy Impey is the first to protest about the way that Di Canio went down" -

Di Canio wins and scores a late penalty equaliser at Leicester Cityhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7qTmNrirVs

 

"Cheeky, audacious, brilliant - everything you'd expect" - Di Canio scores a 'Panenka' penalty against Arsenal http://www.vidivodo.com/video/paolo-di-canio/34947

 

"Di Canio still has the flair, still has the sorcery to conjure up something out of the ordinary" - Di Canio creates a goal for Jonatan Johansson as Chelsea are thumped on Boxing Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJkUzsDlwas

 

"And he celebrates in training - brilliant" - Some outrageous Di Canio skill at Sparrows Lane http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3zn_I9Xhxo

 

Former CAFC communications boss Matt Wright's behind-the-scenes reminiscences and revelations about Di Canio's year at The Valley are explored in more detail in VOTV108, on sale here.

 

 

Voice of The Valley is part of the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (click logo for more details)

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