So what does the helping hand (grenade) mean for the Premier League survival battle?

Yes we Canio - Paolo takes a moment before preparing his Sunderland survival plan. Photo: Owen Humph

Yes we Canio - Paolo takes a moment before preparing his Sunderland survival plan. Photo: Owen Humphreys - Credit: PA

Remember this? “He took one month to get fit and see him as an athlete as he was in the past…Thanks to him for what he has done. He scored one goal, he won one penalty when we were already on top with Tranmere, he challenged one ball at Bournemouth but in 12 games it was very, very poor in some way.”

It’s Paolo di Canio assessing the likelihood of on-loan Norwich striker Chris Martin hanging around at Swindon longer than him. Paolo won – but only just.

The quotes do at least prove the excellent description of Di Canio provided by former Robins chief executive Nick Watkins – that the Italian has a style likened to “management by hand grenade”.

Whether that grenade is about to take half of the Stadium of Light with it is a story we’ll watch unfold over the coming weeks.

The one thing anyone close to the Premier League can testify is the level of scrutiny; one greater than any sport on the planet.


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And once again, Di Canio has the greatest stage of all to perform on.

You can’t – and shouldn’t – ignore his politics. But likewise, they deserve their own column. So I’ll stick to the football for now.

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Sunderland’s sacking of Martin O’Neill on Saturday night felt like a last roll of the dice, which in turn means Di Canio has been appointed by a board who felt they had nothing to lose – even if their league position still defies that.

The Black Cats have previous, of course. Such as teeing up the appointment of a “world class manager” in August 2006, only to unveil Roy Keane – a man that had never managed before.

But with nothing to lose, comes the chance of plenty to gain. And while Di Canio could bring about a complete meltdown on Wearside, you also wonder if he’ll pull it off.

What was clear, especially from City’s visit to the north east last month, was that Sunderland’s malaise ran deep – through the fans, players and dugout.

It is the sort of situation that finds teams out at this point in the season, and don’t think the Canaries are immune either.

City have some very useful games coming up, especially at Carrow Road – and starting with Swansea on Saturday.

And for as long as there is supporters’ angst over the formation, freedom and openness, there is a chance Carrow Road will do the opposition more of a favour than its hosts.

Imagine it’s 0-0 after 70 minutes when Reading visit on April 20? That already feels like a nervy circumstance to me. Now, it must be said that Carrow Road has been more than adept at driving on its side when needed. And despite the disappointment, the City fans at the DW Stadium on Saturday were terrific again.

But it’s still not a bad message to recount – it’s why the rallying calls come out at this time of year.

The fact is there will be numerous twists and turns before the season runs out. Nine Premier League teams will probably see the glory of safety and their top-flight lives flash before their eyes on alternate weekends.

And if either Sunderland or Norwich are to survive, then it will require riding all that out and providing a collective effort.

Whoever the manager, whatever the club, now is the time for collective responsibility – for City, that starts this Saturday.

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