Swindon boss Di Canio takes his wacky world to Wembley for trophy showdown
23:02 GMT, 23 March 2012
The question was a simple one. In the list of trophies you have won in your career, where would the Johnstone's Paint Trophy rank The answer was pure Paolo Di Canio.
'The best. Even when I win the Champions League in 10 years' time, this would be the best one because it is at the start.
'I won Serie A with Juventus, the UEFA Cup with AC Milan as a player, important trophies and I felt like I was the most beautiful boy in the world, but the emotion that you feel inside as a manager, the emotion you give to others makes me feel like a general in a battle a thousand years ago.
Wembley way: Di Canio is preparing for the final showdown in north London
'I hope we can win on Sunday because then I will maybe do something that you have never seen in your life. I don't know what, but I do know myself. I could do anything.'
Crazy words from the mad Italian. Well, obviously not because Di Canio takes Swindon to Wembley to face Chesterfield as clear League Two leaders so madness is clearly infused with genius in his case. Or is it the other way around
A simple press conference lasts for 45 mesmerising minutes. The words purporting wisdom are accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders here, a purse of the lips there.
Arm signals fly off behind, to the side and up in the air as if Di Canio were directing Roman traffic along the Via Veneto. It is a bewildering fusion of sound and vision.
Airline pilots flying over north London towards Heathrow on Sunday afternoon would be well advised not to look down at the Wembley touchline. Di Canio does many things but a holding pattern is not one of them.
'I will tell my players: “Take care of your dream. It's a dream of a million players to play once at Wembley. Play your football. Attacking football. With discipline but freely. Don't show me any shyness. Live your time on the pitch. Run forward more than you run back and everything will come automatically and we will win the game.”'
Italian job: Di Canio has been a huge success so far at Swindon
When it comes to his dressing room delivery, Di Canio insists he pares his phrases to the bone.
'Oh no, I'm quicker at explaining myself at half-time. For me a press conference is like a conversation and because my English is very bad (it isn't) maybe you wouldn’t understand if I gave a short answer to a question.
'In the dressing room I give the players, two or three, sometimes four main things that we have to do. Against Torquay on Tuesday that took two minutes.
'Then we start to encourage each other. I know from studying the psychological side that the attention of a group is no more than eight minutes at one go. Can you imagine if I destroyed the players for 10 minutes at half-time'
Actually, yes, but then that is because it is hard to see Di Canio as a clinical analyst given his touchline histrionics. His explanation is fascinating.
'I have to control my passion more as a manager than I did as a player. Absolutely. It's a part of the improvement that I have to make. At the beginning of the season, maybe I was less theatrical but more nervous. I was trying to pay attention to details.
'Now, the way I act lets me release my stress and even if it doesn’t look like I’m concentrating when I am around the dugout, I really am. I have to let these emotions out, otherwise I can't work.
Dream factory: A million players want to play at this stadium, says Di Canio
'In the future maybe I will control my actions because it’s a part of the improvement of any job. It's the first season for me as a manager and I feel the responsibility very heavily because I promised something and for me a promise is more important than a contract.
'At the beginning of the season I was wrong to judge my players. I did it because of the pressure. But the passion that I have, I cannot stop. You will see that in Paolo Di Canio in five years' or ten years' time even if I am winning the Champions League at Barcelona with Messi.
'Like when I played for Fabio Capello, I always say to my players: “You don't have to love me. You have to follow me.”
'I'm sure most of them don’t love me, but they love working with me. The best mix would be that they love me and they love working with me, but you can’t have everything.'
Sunday will show whether Paolo Di Canio comes closer than most.