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Paolo Di Canio’s wild career from shoving referee to bust-up with his own player

Paolo Di Canio will go down in history as one of the most colourful characters in Premier League history.

During spells at Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton, Di Canio pretty much wrote headlines on a weekly basis – for both the right and wrong reasons.

The Italian maverick also had spells with Celtic, Lazio and AC Milan during a glittering career.

And it didn’t stop on the pitch either, with Di Canio going on to taste fleeting success in the dugout with Swindon Town and Sunderland.

Here, Daily Star Sport takes a look at five of the Italian maverick’s stand-out moments from a remarkable career both as a player and a manager.

1) Referee shove



Paolo Di Canio marches away after shoving Paul Alcock to the ground 13 years ago today
Paolo Di Canio marches away after shoving Paul Alcock to the ground 13 years ago today

It’s 13 years to the day of one of the Premier League’s most iconic moments – and one of Di Canio’s most shameful.

The Italian, then playing for Sheffield Wednesday, lost his cool with referee Paul Alcock after being shown a red card by the official for a physical altercation with Arsenal defender Martin Keown.

In spectacular scenes, Di Canio had tried to scrap with Keown and Gunners captain Patrick Viera before turning his anger to Alcock, who was spectacularly shoved to the ground.

It was an action that the striker paid dearly for – both on and off the pitch.

He was slapped with a six-month ban and a £10,000 fine for sparking the melee at Hillsborough.

Di Canio would never play for Wednesday again after his shoving episode, with the Owls electing to flog him to West Ham for a cut-price £1.5m in January.

2) West Ham volley

What is Paolo Di Canio’s finest moment? Comment below.



Di Canio's iconic volley for West Ham against Wimbledon is one of the best in Premier League history
Di Canio’s iconic volley for West Ham against Wimbledon is one of the best in Premier League history

Despite making headlines with his bizarre off-field antics, Di Canio was always a genius on the grass.

He notched many spectacular strikes during his years in England and beyond, but there remains one that stands above them all as he catapulted himself to stardom at West Ham.

Di Canio’s stunning volley for the Hammers against Wimbledon back in 2000 made him a cult hero at Upton Park – and was arguably his finest moment in the Premier League.

“The Wimbledon goal was very good!” he told West Ham. “The delivery was a typical English delivery, you know, as it was a delivery that started and arrived quickly.

“In an instant, I saw this ball arrive and I did a bicycle volley instinctively and the percentage of the difficulty is 99 per cent. But, if you see the change in the air, it is a harmony that only the dancer can have.

“I can understand in England why they show this because it was pretty much a perfect strike.”

3) Headlining the Theatre of Dreams



Di Canio enjoyed his best spell in the Premier League playing for the Hammers
Di Canio enjoyed his best spell in the Premier League playing for the Hammers

If Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon was his best ever Hammers goal, then his strike to knock Manchester United out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford has to be a close second.

With West Ham struggling in the Premier League, few would have backed the Iron to get a result over United.

But Di Canio hadn’t read the script.

The Italian magician snuck in behind the United defence and poked beyond Fabien Barthez, who bizarrely stood appealing for offside, before racing over to the potty travelling fans.

“It was a very exciting moment,” Di Canio reflected when he was quizzed on it years later. “It was like having sex with Madonna. I don’t know if this will be the same as a manager. Probably yes. It would be fantastic. Let me try it.”

4) Sunderland knee slide



Di Canio's iconic celebration after Sunderland's second goal in the 3-0 win over bitter rivals Newcastle
Di Canio’s iconic celebration after Sunderland’s second goal in the 3-0 win over bitter rivals Newcastle

After steering Swindon Town to the League Two title in his first coaching job, the Italian was handed the reigns at Sunderland.

The Black Cats were teetering on the brink of relegation from the Premier League when they rolled the dice on Di Canio – but they hit the jackpot, initially, with the ex-Hammers hero.

Di Canio lost his first game against Chelsea but had a chance to quickly make amends with a trip to bitter local rivals Newcastle a few days later.



Paolo Di Canio's wild career from shoving referee to bust-up with his own player

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Sunderland thumped the Magpies 3-0 in the Tyne-Wear derby, with Di Canio marking the moment with an iconic knee slide celebration right in front of the travelling fans.

It was Sunderland’s first victory at St James Park in over a decade – and proved to be the catalyst for Di Canio keeping the Black Cats in the Premier League against all odds.

Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got for the Italian at the Stadium of Light.

He was eventually given his marching orders after CEO Margaret Byrne revealed that a number of senior stars had approached her due to his “brutal and vitriolic” criticism of the squad – something which Di Canio denied.

5) Bust up with own player



Di Canio had a physical clash with former Swindon Town player Leon Clarke during his time with the Robins
Di Canio had a physical clash with former Swindon Town player Leon Clarke during his time with the Robins

Di Canio’s first job in management at Swindon, like the majority of his coaching career, ended in tears – even after guiding the club to the League Two title in his first season in charge.

Although his first year in charge was a rip-roaring success, there were still turbulent times for the volatile boss.

One incident that occurred very early on in his reign was Di Canio ending up in a scrap with Leon Clarke following the striker’s bust-up with fitness coach Claudio Donatelli.

Swindon’s chairman at the time, Jeremy Wray, revealed to BBC Wiltshire that Clarke had refused to leave the pitch at Di Canio’s request and that the pair had then clashed in the tunnel.

“Leon and the fitness coach were having words after the game,” revealed Wray. “I think Leon felt he had given his all and his legs were heavy because he had been given an awful lot of running to do.

“The fitness coach’s view was that he had done well and that was because of the training. It seems trivial but that argument has blown up.

“Paolo was concerned these discussions should be held behind closed doors and went to him to get him into the dressing room but Leon didn’t want to go down.”

Di Canio eventually resigned in 2013 with Swindon struggling to sign players weeks after Di Canio was left deflated by the sale of star player Matt Ritchie.

But he left them in typical Di Canio fashion – with an absolute stormer of an exit line.

“I am the manager and they are the fans. For this, they have to hope that I will be the manager in the future because it’s difficult to find another one like me.”

Paolo Di Canio's wild career from shoving referee to bust-up with his own player
Anurag Reddy
I'm a 29-year-old travel enthusiast, travel and nature photographer, Computer Science graduate, and Mass Communication student. I have seen different shades of life through traveling and lived different lives through reading. With every word I write, I travel within, and I understand myself better. Writing helps me discover myself, and that paved roads for me to choose writing as a profession.
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