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TOUR DIARY: Day eight
I WAS running the commentary through in my head, like a seven-year-old having a kick-about with his friends.
“Picaretta to Di Canio, he beats two, Morshead’s free at the back post, there’s no one marking him, perfect ball from Di Canio, Morshead, left foot. Goooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaalllll!”
It’s fair to say my strike may not have been decisive, given our 18-goal winning margin over a collection of the Town manager’s family and close friends under the fierce midday sun at Hotel Veronello yesterday, but that second-half effort for the Swindon Town staff and media seven-a-side team is one that will live with me forever.
In my line of work I am occasionally fortunate enough to land in positions in life that just don’t come around too often.
A Sunday afternoon friendly with Di Canio on the banks of Lake Garda is one such example, and if the experience taught me anything it was: A – the Italian has still not lost either his ability on the ball or his competitive edge.
B – the Swindon Town players are remarkably fit.
And C – I really am not.
Watching Di Canio in action for the duration of our 80-minute match, it was evident that he still thrives on any element of competition.
You can see that on any regular Saturday back home, as League Two dug-outs can well testify, with his routine rants and ravings and impassioned debates with matchday officials and his own substitutes.
But that is an arena where you would fully expect that side of his character to come to the fore.
On a lazy, hot Sunday afternoon on his one day off out on tour, you’d have thought he might have toned down his intense drive to win.
Not one bit of it.
In our pre-match team talk he said he wanted us to “destroy” our opponents, during the second period he continually barked the words “no mercy” and at full-time he joked that he was disappointed we had not seen off the opposition by a greater margin than our 35-17 success.
At least I think he was joking.
For a couple of hours we got as first-hand an insight as I think it is possible to get of what made Di Canio the footballer, and what makes Di Canio the manager, tick.
He loves to express himself on the pitch. He may now live vicariously through his squad, but he still has the ability to run rings around most defences.
It visibly hurt him to concede every single one of the goals we let in, and he took great satisfaction from seeing the net bulge at the other end.
It was an experience I will never forget.
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