Di Canio, former-hooligan and fan of Mussolini

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Paolo Di Canio, West Ham's street-fighting, straight-talking Italian striker who says he loves England so much that there are times when he does not want to ever return to his native country, said yesterday it is inconceivable that the Football Association should appoint a foreigner as the national football coach.

Paolo Di Canio, West Ham's street-fighting, straight-talking Italian striker who says he loves England so much that there are times when he does not want to ever return to his native country, said yesterday it is inconceivable that the Football Association should appoint a foreigner as the national football coach.

"Gianluca Vialli, for his qualities as a manager, might be one candidate," said Di Canio of his compatriot and former team-mate, who was sacked by Chelsea recently. "But I know England should never take a foreign manager. In England you're proud of your national manager and your players and that's the right way. Maybe it's possible to have foreign national coaches in Africa or Albania but in Italy, Germany and England, how could you think of finding a manager from a different country?"

The subject of Kevin Keegan's successor was just one topic Di Canio touched upon as he launched his autobiography in central London. He also opined that West Ham do not train enough (the reason why he does extra practice by himself most days) and that he often feels he is a marked man in the eyes of English referees. "Before a match they walk up the tunnel saying hello and smiling at players, shaking hands," he said. "And then they come to me," he added, looking skywards and imitating an expression of near despair.

Match officials have never rated highly in Di Canio's opinion since the player earned an 11-match ban in 1998 for being sent off for Sheffield Wednesday against Arsenal and then pushing over the referee, Paul Alcock.

That episode - "I could push my eight-year-old daughter Ludovica that way and she wouldn't fall over... My first reaction was that somebody must have been crouching behind him, like in one of those old slapstick comedies. That is the only way it is humanly possible to fall over like that" - is one of many frankly recounted incidents in Di Canio's book.

Others include his time as member of Lazio's notorious Irriducibili hooligan mob ("So I kicked the Padova fan while he was lying on the ground. Two or three times, I don't remember how many... I was high from the adrenalin rush"), his ups and downs with the likes of Juventus, Celtic and Wednesday, and his heroes. "Perhaps because I am right wing, I am fascinated by Benito Mussolini," he writes. "What fascinates me, and this is probably where Mussolini and I are very different, is the way he was able to go against his morals to achieve his goals."

And then there is Di Canio's love affair with Britishness. "Not all British heroes may have been winners, but they were all fighters, people who have the tenacity never to give up. I feel a special kinship towards that, every day I feel myself absorbing more and more of that bulldog spirit."

Paolo Di Canio - The Autobiography (Collins Willow, £16.99)

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