Hox in the Box: Why football needs Paolo Di Canio
In the same week that Neil Warnock announced he would resign as manager of Leeds if he didn't get them promoted come May, Paolo Di Canio left his post as manager of Swindon Town, writes James Hoxey.
Controversy has shrouded the feisty Italian's every move from the moment he landed in England from Celtic in 1997. An enigma wrapped in a riddle doesn't really come close to describing the complexity of Di Canio's wildly eccentric character.
The bizarre nature of his almost weekly swing from the majestic to the outright bizarre just about sums him up. We love Paolo. He makes us smile. And his decision to turn his back on Swindon was based on nothing more than his desire to win.
In an era defined by financial madness, clubs in meltdown, and players on exorbitant wages, it's refreshing to see a footballing decision not solely motivated by money. Citing reasons of 'broken promises,' Di Canio walked out on a team he moulded from League Two no-hopers into a side who are only a handful of games from the Championship.
From there the untold riches of Premier League football are just one good season away. The way he brought the best out of an average squad of players should not be underestimated. The Robins would surely still be wallowing in the doldrums without him.
It would have been easy for him to remain at the club collecting his pay cheque, but clearly he would have had to accept the limited ambitions of the owner, whose reluctance to back his manager financially in the transfer market seems to have forced Di Canio's hand.
Di Canio can be accused of many things as a footballer and manager, but lacking in principles he is not. As a player he won the FIFA Fair Play Award in 2000 for his actions on the field whilst playing for West Ham, refusing to make the most of a goal scoring opportunity because the opposing goalkeeper was injured - choosing instead catch the ball, stop play and allow him to receive treatment.
I imagine Harry Redknapp, then West Ham manager, had mixed feelings on the matter at the time, but the Italian was simply following his own moral code. And that is clearly what he has done now by walking out on Swindon - something you have to respect really.
Some will say it is yet another example of him throwing a wobbly, as he has done many times before - most notably when pushing referee Paul Alcock to the floor whilst playing for Sheffield Wednesday - but I choose to believe it's a two-fingered response to the tyranny of the modern football club owner.
Integrity and honour are clearly two aspects of his controversial character that he is unwilling to see compromised - something the Swindon board would have been well aware of before hiring him.
The club suddenly became a hugely marketable commodity upon his arrival, and his dugout demeanour sparked massive media interest. That interest will more than likely ebb away now he has left.
The Robins could well find that they have found the ceiling in terms of the potential of their current crop of players, and that ensuring their League One status in the coming few seasons is the extent of their capabilities.
Who knows how far they could have gone with Paolo Di Canio at the helm? With the brand of football he wanted to implement, and with the buzz of excitement that followed him everywhere.
It would be anything but a shock if Swindon got back-to-back promotions practicing the kind of free flowing football Di Canio encouraged in his players, but I fear they will miss out this season, and the one after that too.
One thing is for sure, their former manager will be missed on the terraces, and allowing him to leave could well come back to haunt the club's board. Di Canio will not be short of suitors, despite his abrasive brand of management, and it would be foolish to bet against him reaching the summit of management, just as he did as a player.
He inspires, torments, and pushes team mates and players to their maximum potential where ever he goes. Let's just hope it's not too long before he returns to the game. Football needs people like Paolo.