Paolo Di Canio today conceded he has the nickname of "the mad Italian" and backed it up by saying he would have swam to Sunderland to take the managerial job he was given on Sunday.
Giving his first news conference this morning, the former Swindon Town manager addressed a wide number of issues ranging from his political views to his lack of experience as a manager, and admitted it took him "one second" to take over from Martin O'Neill. That statement is not unusual given Di Canio has forged a reputation as a colourful and controversial character on and off the field, and his appointment has been seen as a risk by some.
The 44-year-old does not see it that way, though, and said today: "It is obvious that in the past people have been sceptical because it was my first job as Swindon, League Two, League One, the mad Italian, he will fight his players, but at the end I won the league. I am young, people say the same, I have no experience in the Premiership but I am not worried."
Sunderland owner Ellis Short approached the former West Ham striker after dispensing of the services of O'Neill on Saturday and Di Canio thought the American businessman was on a wind-up when he called him. "Late in the afternoon after the Manchester (United) game, I received a phone call and I was surprised because many times it was happened that a manager was sacked and my name, Di Canio, was 5-1 odds," he said.
"When I received the phone call from Mr Short, I thought it was a joke and I was ready to say a bad word - I thought it was a friend and I would have lost my job! But it was a big surprise and I had the fire in my stomach. I said yes after a second and I said I come by swim, no problem."
Di Canio inherits a side dealing with relegation worries, but he is confident he has the tools to make sure any concerns are put to bed. When asked how much he would bet on a Sunderland survival, he said: "You call me the mad Italian so I bet what I have got. People are sceptical, it's not Paolo Di Canio who makes the statistics, I hear people talking about my statistics but it doesn't mean anything. I see managers with more experience than Paolo Di Canio, they are relegated. Why not change this habit one day?"
During his time at Swindon Di Canio had a number of flare-ups with players, giving a nod to his fiery side, and he wants to bring some passion back to Sunderland. "It's better to have 15 players ready for the fight than 25 players that are completely lazy," he said. "It would be better to find a different situation but I think I have enough quality to work with."
He met his new players for the first time yesterday as he started preparations for a meeting with Chelsea this weekend and he claims to have found some areas that need care and attention already. "I saw curiosity, enthusiasm, the first day was very good," he added.
"We finished at four in the night with my staff. It is obvious that some players miss some strength, physical condition, some are down in terms of confidence. We need to cope with several situations. It's obvious that it is not the moment to make a big revolution because we are too close to the end of the season. But we have a plan to put in the mix because the brain is crucial."