Football: Di Canio disputes suspension

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PAOLO DI CANIO yesterday appealed to the Premier League against a two-week suspension imposed upon him by Sheffield Wednesday.

Di Canio is now nine days overdue from a period of compassionate leave - he was allowed home to bring his wife, Elisabetta, and baby daughter back to England. The 30-year-old striker's non-appearance led to Wednesday suspending him for 14 days without pay from 12 December, a ruling which has infuriated Di Canio.

Wednesday's secretary, Graham Mackrell, said: "I understand from the Premier League he has appealed against the imposition of our suspension for his failure to report back."

Di Canio would be eligible to return in Saturday's home match against Leicester after an 11-game suspension for his shove on referee Paul Alcock .

Wednesday are threatening to place Di Canio on the transfer list as he remains incommunicado in his wife's home town of Terni, near Rome. The striker's agent, Moreno Roggi, has since said Di Canio is suffering from stress and depression and is unlikely to fly back until 4 January at the earliest. He said a doctor's certificate verifies the illness, leaving Wednesday with no grounds to enforce the suspension.

Mackrell said: "I think we can now assume he will not be available for our game on Boxing Day and will remain in Italy for the time being. We are hoping he will return but any suggestion of us flying out to talk to him are out of the question. He is a contracted employee of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and we are entitled to expect him to work."

A hearing will be held next month, with the relationship between club and player almost at breaking point. Di Canio has already been fined a staggering pounds 78,000 by the club and the Football Association, added to which were the pounds 12,000 in legal costs for his disciplinary commission hearing.

The referee Paul Durkin, who sent off Arsenal's Gilles Grimandi during the Gunners' victory over Leeds on Sunday, has dismissed the Frenchman's claims that he did not head-butt Leeds' Alan Smith. Durkin said: "I'm not even contemplating changing my mind."

Grimandi declared his intention to appeal after becoming the fifth Arsenal player to be sent off this season.

"I never touched the other player with my head and I would like the authorities to look at my case," Grimandi said. "There was a foul on me in the first place. All I did was put my head forward to let the other player know I was not happy about the foul. I honestly did not make any contact. I have never done that in my life, not hit someone else with my head.

"At first I thought the referee was going to show me the yellow card and I did not think that was fair. When he pulled out the red card, I could not believe it," Grimandi said.

Arsenal's manager, Arsene Wenger, joined Grimandi's defence, saying: "Grimandi was badly fouled two or three times. And then the guy stamped on him before he was sent off."

But Wenger added that his defender was ill-judged in his reaction. "Grimandi made a movement of head-butting him but didn't touch him. It was a bad reaction. He shouldn't have done it," he said.

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