Paulo Di Canio will always be well thought of by Everton fans
The year was 2000, when Ross Barkley had just turned 7, when Manchester City had just been relegated(along with Bradford City) to the Championship and rich Sheikhs were nowhere to be seen and Walter Smith was doing his best to get Everton relegated. It was December and West Ham were visiting Goodison Park and an outstanding act of fair play and sportsmanship was to be seen, which brought the Everton crowd to their feet.
Lets begin our little tale by telling a bit more about the man as Paulo Di Canio was a bit of a livewire, he was a football genius, but like most geniuses he was a bit of a mentalist. Back in 1998 while at Sheffield Wednesday, Di Canio was involved in an incident which cost him an 11 game ban. Di Canio was delighting the Owls fans after his £4.2m move from Celtic, his skill and passion meant he was one of the most talked about players in the Premier League. In a match against Arsenal, Di Canio had just seen Dutchman Wim Jonk get bowled over by Patrick Viera after Jonk had been snapping at the French players legs. Di Canio got a bit wound up by this and in a tussle with ex Everton player Martin Keown and kicked out and was sent from the pitch.
While being shown the red and ordered, hot tempered Di Canio pushed Alcock causing the referee to collapse like he had been shot by a military sniper. In fairness to Di Canio, he barely touched the bloke, but his legs just buckled under him and down he went. The push resulted in an 11 game ban for Paulo and and £10k fine.
Di Canio stands over Alcock
Back to the match at Goodison and it was in the final minutes. The game was at 1-1 following a headed goal by Danny Cadamarteri (One of the original Everton wonderkids that never happened) and an equiliser by Freddy Kanoute 7 minutes from time. It was the final few seconds of the match, the Irons were pressing the Everton goal, goalkeeper Paul Gerrard came out to the left edge of his box to make a clearance whereupon he twisted his knee in what was a serious injury and stayed down in pain while the ball came back to a West Ham player who crossed the ball back to the centre of the 18 yard box where Di Canio was waiting. However, rather than scoring on an open goal like he easily could have, the explosive forward caught the ball in both hands and gestured towards the injured keeper so that Gerrard could receive proper treatment. The Goodison crowd rose to its feet and applauded the Italian player for an act that earned him the 2001 FIFA fair play award. West Ham manager at the time Harry Redknapp couldn’t believe what he was seeing and gestured to the Italian that he should have headed it in, but on that day, Di Canio earned a place in the hearts of Everton fans with an act brought about in an instant.
Di Canio catches the ball following Paul Gerrards injury
Di Canio’s new team Sunderland entertain Everton at the weekend sporting a poor record against us, but he has his new charges fired up and it will not be an easy day like it normally is in the North East.
He may not be everyones cup of tea, he may fall out with players and fans, he may have different ideas to everyone else, but Everton fans will always remember that act and will always applaud Di Canio when he is at The Old Lady
Come and have your say on the Sunderland V Everton match at The Everton Forum match thread: http://www.theevertonforum.co.uk/thread5817.html