Di Canio's passion fires Swindon to unlikely berth in fourth round


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The Independent Online

Paolo Di Canio won just as many friends as enemies in a playing career full of contradictions. Anyone at the County Ground who saw him mastermind taking the FA Cup scalp of Wigan will see he remains that animated human firecracker ever ready to explode. Management has yet to mellow the 43-year-old. But perhaps there is more than meets the eye with the mercurial Italian.

Di Canio preached self-control, discipline and restraint to his players after Paul Benson's scruffy late goal that would eventually send Swindon through to the fourth round, suggesting that passion was not the only quality on his CV.

"There is nothing like playing for Paolo Di Canio," said striker Alan Connell, whose first-half equaliser had set Swindon on the way to their upset. "He was passionate as a player and he's carried that trait into management, but his attention to detail is incredible.

"Everyone focuses on his mannerisms on the touchline, but he does a lot of research with his technical staff before every game, he shares all the relevant intelligence with us and we carried out his instructions to the letter. But it is his passion which rubs off on the players."

That word "passion" crops up a lot when Di Canio is involved. Sometimes it's hard to see beyond that. But, for once, this was not just the Di Canio show. Wigan made wholesale changes but Swindon had no right to outpass, outthink and outplay their Premier League opponents.

Even after Callum McManaman had swept Wigan ahead, converting the rebound from Ben Watson's 35th-minute penalty, there was always a whiff of an upset in the air. It was no surprise when Connell flicked home Matt Ritchie's cross barely five minutes later.

Swindon continued to charge forward, dominated the tie and were duly rewarded for their pressure when Ritchie's shot was diverted past a stranded Ali al-Habsi by half-time substitute Benson in the 76th minute.