Di Canio? “Brilliant player but couldn’t manage a fish supper,” Martin O’Neill

Martin O’Neill has responded in quite the fashion to Paolo Di Canio, after comments the Italian made about O’Neills tenure at Sunderland. The Irishman was manager at the Stadium of Light back in 2013 when he was relieved of his duties by the Black Cats. Di Canio was drafted in afterwards and the colourful Italian didn’t waste any time in critiquing O’Neill and his squad.

Former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill walks up towards the stadium with the SPL trophy during the Premiership match between Celtic and Aberdeen at Celtic Park on May 24, 2023 . (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The former Swindon Town boss said when he took over the reins from the man who took Celtic to their first European final in 33 years: The fact that he [O’Neill] spoke after six months, not straight away, that proves what kind of level he is,” he said via The Mirror. “He is not very big. The fitness levels were pathetic. I had players who told me they had cramps from driving the car. I had three players with injuries in the calf after 20 minutes of a game.”

It was strong stuff from the former Celtic attacker at the time and O’Neill mentioned – what he felt – were the Italian’s misguided outbursts. At the time, O’Neill was less than impressed with the mouthy character’s scathing attack on his management style and abilities. He said of the ex-Celt: “Paolo Di Canio? That managerial charlatan – absolutely, yes” [talkSPORT].

“Paolo stepped in there and basically, as weeks ran on, he ran out of excuses. I had a wry smile to myself. It’s like a 27-year-old manager stepping in and the first thing you do is criticise the fitness of the team beforehand.

A dejected Celtic manager Martin O’Neill after the UEFA Cup Final match between Celtic and FC Porto held on May 21, 2003 at the Estadio Olimpico in Seville (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

“If you’ve ever seen Aston Villa play, you’ll see the one thing I pride myself on is teams being fit. What you’ll find interesting is that when he started the team wasn’t fit for the Chelsea game. Then the following week when he won at Newcastle, not being fit wasn’t mentioned. Then about two weeks later they got mauled by Aston Villa, someone asked him about the fitness. Suddenly, he didn’t know where to go. Because the team, as it progresses, should be getting more fit.

“And then, at the start of the season, when he lost by a late goal at Southampton, he was asked about the fitness regime, that he was going to have them the fittest team in the league. Suddenly, the fitness wasn’t for that game but for Christmas, when the winter months set in. You know, I did have a wry smile at that one.”

Celtic striker Paolo Di Canio fires in a shot.

Speaking to talkSPORT this week, the Treble-winning Hoops boss fired back at the Roman once again, saying:

“I was the manager of Sunderland and left Sunderland and Paolo Di Canio came in who made references to fitness. He lasted about 16 weeks himself, including pre-season in there, and finally lost his job because the squad weren’t fit enough themselves.

“So it bounced back on him. He was a brilliant, brilliant player but couldn’t manage a fish supper at the end of the day. It does rebound on you, it does. You can’t talk about the previous regime’s fitness. It might be right but don’t be starting [the job]publicly saying because it can come back to haunt you.”

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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