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THE SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: Crazy days are over, now let's move on
FORTY-four days ago a story broke which, unbeknown to us all, would trigger the most extraordinary series of events I have ever witnessed at a football club.
Quite frankly I’d be surprised to ever see such an avalanche of mesmerising absurdity ever again.
From the threat of administration to the race to sell Swindon Town, stories of players being put up for sale at reduced prices to the resignation of the manager, unfounded national speculation to the possibility of legal action against the club by the fans’ cult hero - it’s as though the football gods vacuum-packed every major news item under the sun into a six-week window and shoved it down the Robins’ throats.
My other half sat down with me on Thursday night and said: “One day we’ll look back on this and laugh”. I giggled at the notion. This whole episode has veered erratically between comedy and tragedy, as though it were penned by a slightly tipsy Shakespeare.
It has taken the energy reserves of everyone involved with the club to an all-time low, and it is to the immense credit of the club’s staff, the players, the fans and I dare say even the local media that we haven’t allowed it to become an almighty slanging match.
We’ve had statements released to suit the Australian lunchtime, long periods of flux, unanswered questions - all individual acts within this curious 44-day circus.
And so it comes to the end of it all and what do we have? An opportunity for calm, for rest, for sleep and for reflection.
Looking back on the Paolo Di Canio era today it has a similar feel to waking up on the Sunday morning after a memorable Saturday night. Flicking through the pictures on your iPhone you can see images that make you smile but you’re distracted by the banging headache caused by voluntary excess.
Perhaps at times we allowed ourselves to glide through Di Canio’s reign punch-drunk on success, perhaps we allowed ourselves to overlook the issues in the background as results improved and performances thrilled.
There’s no denying that the Di Canio period was amongst the most exciting and enjoyable spells in our club’s history and we will not forget his ability to regiment a team - be it through fear, discipline, inspiration, genius or a combination of the four. We were so delighted to be married to a personality who in his own unique way revitalised an ailing club.
How many of us could foresee such a messy divorce?
It was always likely to end with a bang. Di Canio going out with a whimper was unthinkable. Some of his first words upon arriving at the County Ground in May 2011 were: “In life, I always wanted confrontation”. Confrontation he sought, confrontation he got - with opposing managers, opposing fans, Andrew Black, Sir William Patey, the Football Association, Leon Clarke, Paul Caddis and even on occasion with his own supporters.
In delivering brilliance Di Canio brought a very Roman element to Wiltshire. His self-belief is amongst the most admirable qualities I have witnessed in another human being, yet when that confidence stretched into arrogance he was flawed.
Supporters will quite rightly hold their hero in high regard for what he did to establish Swindon on the footballing map once again, and it was at his direction that the club were able to celebrate a league title and a trip to Wembley.
On a personal level, Di Canio was an enigma. For the most part he was brilliant to interview, genuinely fascinating and never reticent. A journalist’s dream. He was also generous, although that is a story for another day.
But despite it all, like any other man in the sporting world and across industries, the West Ham legend has his faults. I’m sure it would be wrong to claim he was solely to blame for the recent internal combustion at the County Ground but he is partially culpable. Diplomacy was not Di Canio’s strength, sadly this is still rearing its ugly head in public today.
So how do I look back on the past 22 months? With tired eyes, is my honest answer, and fondly - but now it really is time to move on.
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