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Paolo Di Canio lets rip in the A20 Derby

"Old Firm it isn't - but the A420 derby between Swindon and Oxford is too much for Di Canio"

There was an explosion in the centre of Swindon on Saturday afternoon. It was identified as Paolo Di Canio.


A man who has played football in Rome and Milan, who has tasted the bitter electricity of the Old Firm derby in Glasgow, was unable to prevent self-combustion in the white heat of what is known as the ‘A420 derby' between Swindon Town and Oxford United.


A game in which there were two bookings was not exactly West Ham-Millwall, but then Paolo Di Canio is Paolo Di Canio. He is now the four-game manager of Swindon. Three of them have been defeats.

 

 

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Di Canio was a startling appointment by the club relegated to League Two last season, but it brought glamour, excitement and attention to the County Ground.


In his first ever game as a manager - against Crewe a fortnight ago - it also brought three points, but in the past eight days there have been losses at Cheltenham and at Dagenham. That is bad enough but to go down 2-1 at home to the rivals from 30 miles down that A420 is stomach-turning in these parts.


Oxford, led from the back by Michael Duberry, had only ever won once at Swindon and that was in 1973. It cannot be the sort of  history Di Canio had in mind when he joined. Hence the explosion. It came 10 minutes into the second half at the sold-out  stadium. This was the first derby of its kind for nine years.

 

 

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Swindon were losing, as they had been at half-time. They had fallen behind on 12 minutes but equalised soon after when Matt Ritchie's goal provoked a chorus of: ‘Swindon Town FC, by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.'


On this evidence, that is untrue.


It also provoked Di Canio. He belted 40 yards down the touchline, past the Oxford bench on the way. It was not exactly Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford with Porto, but there was a moment when it looked as if the 43-year-old Italian might join his players' celebration on the pitch. He said afterwards that he'd wanted to but decided on restraint.


Oxford complained to the fourth official; Di Canio made yap-yap  gestures with his hand to their dugout. Swindon's manager was  coming to the boil.


The Italian once informed his team-mates at West Ham that they ‘dressed like Germans'. Now his robin-red club tie was flapping around his sharp suit and so was he. A routine offside decision resulted in a tirade at the linesman.


Referee Mark Haywood took his time to walk over but when he did there was a finger pointed towards the stand. Di Canio complained, though there was no Paul Alcock push. Off he went.


Di Canio said that in all the  derbies he has played in, he had never been dismissed before. But he will not be appealing: ‘I know the rules, I have to accept it,' he said. He also said yesterday compared to Celtic-Rangers - ‘It's not  just about numbers, it's how you feel it.


‘It was a beautiful atmosphere, I'd love to have played in front of  this crowd.'


They have clearly taken to him in Swindon but how long they take poor results is another matter. The Robins would not be the first club to discover the problem of having the biggest star standing on the touchline rather than running on the pitch. The appointment is also an experiment.


Di Canio has been doing some of that. He made four changes here and has recruited 14 players so far. No 15 arrives today, a big Czech. ‘He's massive, but not only massive, good,' Di Canio said.


He confirmed that would be his last signing before adding that he's in for a loan player. Di Canio may have learned a bit under Harry Redknapp.


The Italian's managerial education continues. Oxford's centre  forward James Constable scored both of the visitors' goals. Last week Di Canio talked of Constable's  Swindon allegiance and how he'd like to sign him. The Oxford contingent appeared to think Constable was galvanised by this.


Di Canio trooped from his seat back on to the pitch at the final whistle. But there was no confrontation with the officials. Only reflection.


‘I can make the people happy with my decisions. At the moment I hurt them,' he said.