Football: Redknapp is redeemer for exile Di Canio

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The Independent Online
PAOLO DI CANIO'S self-imposed exile from English football ended yesterday as he joined West Ham from Sheffield Wednesday on a three and half year contract for around pounds 2m.

His new manager, Harry Redknapp, said: "He's got a great attitude. The man's a great talent." While few in the game would disagree with the latter sentiment, the former might raise eye brows in Yorkshire and Glasgow. The 30-year-old former Celtic forward was yesterday making his his first public appearance since serving an 11-match ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock and subsequently going AWOL from Wednesday.

Di Canio's signing took the Hammers' spending to pounds 6m for the day, with the Cameroon international Marc-Vivien Foe joining the club for just over pounds 4m on a five-and-a-half year deal.

Redknapp rejected suggestions that Di Canio's temperament, which had seen him walk out not only on Wednesday but also on his previous club, Celtic, might be a problem. "It's not a gamble at all," Redknapp said. "Everyone will have an opinion but the only opinion that counts is mine and I have no doubts whatsoever."

Redknapp admitted he may not have been able to buy a player of Di Canio's talent for just pounds 2m if he had not erred in September, but said the incident did not bother him now.

"He can play like you can't believe and do things most people only dream of doing," Redknapp said. "I said to my coaching staff at the first game of the season, against Sheffield Wednesday, that I would love to have Di Canio playing for me.

"I spoke to Tommy Burns who was his manager at Celtic and he told me he was the best player he ever worked with.

"When I told my players he was coming they were absolutely delighted. People like Ian Wright and Rio Ferdinand just can't wait to play with him.

"It will be great to have someone in the side who can produce a flash of genius and turn the game upside down for you."

Redknapp said his new striker had fallen out with Wednesday while serving his ban for shoving Alcock. "He was upset no one contacted him. He didn't feel he got any support and didn't want to go back there. He said he needed a bit of friendship and didn't feel he got it."

Di Canio himself brushed aside suggestions that he was still suffering from the stresses that pushed him into exile. "I watched football, but only on TV. That is terrible for your mind," he said. "I paid a big price, but now I want to play football. I'm very happy, because I can play for a better team than Sheffield Wednesday in my personal opinion."

Redknapp admitted that Di Canio will need some time, perhaps two weeks, to reach match fitness, but Foe should go straight into Saturday's match against Wimbledon, the club whose money - pounds 7.5m for John Hartson - effectively paid for yesterday's signings.

"Marc is an exceptional-player," Redknapp said of Foe, who moved from the French champions, Lens. "He would have signed for Manchester United if he hadn't picked up an injury and they don't sign many bad players."

Asked if he was wary of signing two foreign players after some bad past experiences, Redknapp said: "There's good foreign players and bad foreign players, good English players and bad English players."

He added that he hoped to make another signing, of undisclosed nationality (but a right-sided defender) within a week.

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