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Time for Di Canio to let Sunderland's football do the talking

Suddenly, fascism is the buzzword in football - and beyond.

Paolo Di Canio hasn't suddenly become a different person overnight. The media spotlight surrounding his appointment as Sunderland manager has focused not on football but on Di Canio's beliefs.

But why now? Clearly, his appointment as manager of a Premier League club has sparked the furore, but this is the same Paolo Di Canio as the lower key version that was previously manager of Swindon Town and, until very recently, one of the bookmakers' favourites to become new Reading manager.

The media hype has even seen a focus on Di Canio during nightly television news bulletins this week.

This is what is known as 'a good story angle'.

What does it all mean?

But what is the point of all this? Stories about Di Canio and fascism have gone into overdrive this week, but what does it all mean? Should the Premier League intervene? Should Sunderland fans boycott Di Canio's first game in charge? What exactly is the punchline to this story? 

The chances are this will all blow over soon and if the former West Ham star wins a few games as Sunderland manager, the focus will quickly swing back to football.

There's surely only so far this story can go. Di Canio initially refused to answer questions about his beliefs, but has since issued a statement saying that he is not a fascist. The story isn't quite done and dusted yet, but it hasn't really got anywhere else left to go.

If Di Canio can keep Sunderland in the Premier League, his initial spell as manager of a club in England's top flight will have been a success.

First up is a trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday to take on reigning European champions Chelsea, but Di Canio will relish the opportunity to be thrown straight in at the deep end. And he won't be surprised to hear some anti-fascist chanting Blues fans.

Relegation zone

Sunderland are currently just one point clear of the relegation zone and if Aston Villa win at Stoke on Saturday, Di Canio's side will drop to 17th in the table, a point above Wigan.

It's not exactly an easy first two games in charge for the Italian as the following Sunday, his side visit arch rivals Newcastle United.

His first home game as Sunderland manager is against Everton on Saturday, April 20, followed by another away game, at relegation rivals Villa, on Monday, April 29.

But two of Sunderland's last three games are at home - against Stoke and a potential six-pointer against Southampton - with a trip to White Hart Lane to take on Champions League hopefuls Spurs rounding off Di Canio's first period of Premier League management.

Di Canio knows what his beliefs are, and he believes he has it in him to keep Sunderland up. That is, ultimately, what the majority of his side's fans are interested in.

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