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Monday Moan: Di Canio views irrelevant

Mark Holmes blasts the Paolo Di Canio character assassination, the groans of the Britannia crowd and the Fair Play table in his latest Moan.

Last Updated: 09/04/13 at 08:20 Post Comment

Paolo Di Canio: Political views of no relevance

Paolo Di Canio: Political views of no relevance

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Di Canio views of no relevance

As a player, Paolo Di Canio made close to 200 Premier League appearances. He was a controversial figure then, and he has remained a controversial figure since moving into management.

There was some furore when he took over as Swindon manager in 2011 - trade union GMB ended its sponsorship of the team in protest at his appointment, saying "he has openly voiced support for [Benito] Mussolini".

Beyond that, though, there was little outcry from the general public about his presence in the English game, just as there had not been one during his playing days.

Since taking over at Sunderland last week, though, Di Canio's political views have seemingly become a great problem to a good number of commentators.

He has been forced to release a statement confirming he is "not a racist" and was even asked whether he would like to apologise for his views in his first press conference.

Quite what he was being asked to apologise for is unclear. We live in a country where freedom of speech is valued highly, yet it seems even freedom of thought is not allowed in Di Canio's case.

Had he said something truly controversial at Swindon or after taking over at Sunderland, the furore would be understandable. Had some of his former players or team-mates come out to say that his views can be a problem at a football club, the furore would be understandable.

But neither of those things have happened. As Di Canio said himself, he is a football man and not a politician. He should be judged on how he performs and behaves as a manager, and he should not have been subjected to the character assassination he has had to put up with in the past week.

So long as he behaves as the manager of a Premier League football club should do, what he believes in his own head should not be of any interest to anybody.

Stoke fans need to stay behind the team

Blackburn fans on this website have still not forgiven me for my criticisms of their barracking of Steve Kean last season.

I was similarly critical of the 'welcome' Chelsea fans gave Rafa Benitez when he was appointed earlier this season, but I stand by my view. Both sets of supporters had reasons to feel aggrieved, but their chants, banners and abuse of the two managers simply were not helpful to the team.

Unfortunately, discontent has now reached the stands at the Britannia Stadium. Again, fans' grievances are perfectly understandable - it is inexcusable that the team finds itself in a relegation battle after being eighth halfway through the season - but the players should be supported on a match day.

A big reason for Stoke's achievements over the past five seasons has been the fantastic support shown at the Britannia Stadium, but Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert said in the build-up to Saturday's game that he thought his side could silence the home crowd.

That was impossible to do a few seasons ago but, after a raucous opening, the atmosphere turned sour after Gabriel Agbonlahor's opener for the visitors on Saturday.

There is no denying Stoke's performance was awful, but that does not excuse the loud groans that greeted every misplaced pass or the ironic cheers local lad Ryan Shotton received when he was withdrawn towards the end of the game after a poor display.

The criticism Tony Pulis is receiving from supporters at the moment is completely justified, but he and his players have the same aim as those in the stands - to keep the club in the Premier League.

No matter how much fans disagree with Pulis' team selection, tactics or substitutions, and no matter how badly the players are performing, they need the same level of support from the stands that they received back in the 2008/09 season when that incredible Britannia atmosphere helped Stoke to defy the odds to stay up.

If the moans and groans continue to be audible, however, players will find it even more difficult to produce the performances they are capable of.

With six games remaining to save themselves, Stoke need their 12th man more than ever.

Fair Play table not fair at all

Aston Villa Paul Lambert has recently been defending his side against claims that they are dirty, with the Villans bottom of the Premier League Fair Play table.

First of all, irrespective of how many yellow and red cards they have received this season, anybody that watches Villa on a regular basis will attest they are not a dirty team.

A young team battling against relegation is always going to give away a decent amount of fouls, but there isn't a malicious or persistently dirty player in the Villa squad. There is nothing for Lambert to defend.

The Fair Play table is a joke anyway. You might assume that it is calculated solely on yellow and red cards, or perhaps the amount of fouls a team concedes, but the latter is not taken into consideration at all, while the former is only one of six criterion which decides a team's placing in the table.

Also taken into account is the respect shown towards the opposition and the referee, which is justifiable, but also 'positive play' and 'behaviour of the public'.

Teams gain points in the Fair Play table for 'using attacking tactics' and 'continuing to push for goals when in a winning position' but lose them for 'slowing down the game'. In other words, Villa will have lost points this season for attempting to hold onto crucial leads in games.

Even more ludicrous, though, is that teams can lose points if their fans use 'persistent foul and abusive language' or persistently abuse the officials' decisions. To put that into context, you could cost your side a place in Europe for calling the referee a rude name.

The Fair Play league is the most unfair league of all time.

You can follow me on Twitter @Homzy to see what I moan about from Tuesday to Sunday.

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