First of all, let me apologise for singling you out in this way. Something snapped, and your article - Only surprise about Mourinho’s return is people think it’s a good idea - was the final straw. This letter could have been addressed to any football journalist, had they written the wrong piece at the wrong time, so please don’t take this too personally. Let me also state that you write beautifully, and are unquestionably one of the best journalists working in football today.
Unfortunately, that has just made your failure to write about the right things even more irritating, and now you’re choosing to compound that by inviting us to share your irritation that the underlying football narrative is dominated by trivia. This would be easier to take if you weren’t writing the narrative.
So let’s talk about Paolo Di Canio, shall we? If you can divert your tired eyes from Mourinho for just one second.
You did well, at first. During the four days when the Guardian noticed that Paolo Di Canio was a fascist, you managed to sneak a reasonably thoughtful and well-written piece about Di Canio past your editor. I say “reasonably” because there was one paragraph so appallingly idiotic that it seemed like it came from a different article, perhaps written by a Daily Express leader writer. Here it is:
In spite of which it is still necessary to deal with the issue of timing. Why now, many have asked? Di Canio has been manager of Swindon for two years without complaint. This is undoubtedly a valid wider gripe and there is an excellent point to be made about the lack of attention paid to events in the lower leagues. But the fact is this debate is happening now, and it is happening, rightly or wrongly, simply because Sunderland is a grander concern, more widely seen, more widely supported and reported. If Di Canio were to declare himself a fascist while running a suburban corner shop it would seem less of a pastoral, representative issue than if he were to do so as a director of Tesco. It is the same question of degree and scale that applies to all things.
Several points. Firstly: if you’re going to write about scale, then you need to use the correct scales. Swindon Town are not analagous to a suburban corner shop. Swindon Town are a football club who have sold over 200,000 tickets at their stadium this season, which I’m pretty sure will make them the single biggest provider of leisure activities in Swindon (population: 209,000). You appear to have confused Swindon Town Football Club with Tonbridge Angels.
Secondly: if Paolo Di Canio were to declare himself a fascist while running an actual suburban corner shop, it would be news, because he’s Paolo Di Canio, a highly recognisable name and dependable source of column inches. Your suggestion that the affairs of this “colourful” “character” had somehow slipped below The Guardian‘s radar in League One would carry more weight if The Guardian hadn’t printed two separate articles about his overcoat while you were ignoring him:
This, of course, compares favourably with the zero articles that The Guardian published about Di Canio’s alleged racial abuse of one of his own players while at Swindon. Something doesn’t add up here, but you’re not alone; the only national newspaper to report the Tehoue story was the Daily Mail. Which brings me to my third point: The matter of Paolo Signorelli’s funeral.
Either your search function is broken, or this next story wasn’t reported in The Guardian. In fact, as far as I can tell it was only reported by the Mail and the Sun, which is probably why I missed it until last weekend. Maybe you missed it too? Here, have some links.
Paolo Di Canio at bomb fascist’s funeral (The Sun)
Is this newsworthy? I’d say so. The Guardian apparently disagrees. Granted, this funeral occurred shortly before Di Canio took over at Swindon, but shouldn’t you be asking him questions about this, and how it tallies with his claims not to be a fascist? Would The Guardian give John Terry such an easy ride, I wonder? Or is this just another example of how degree and scale apply to all thigs: does the very mention of John Terry instantly change the Sunderland manager’s status from director of Tescos to suburban corner shop owner?
To be honest, Barney, I’d far rather read about Jose Mourinho’s overcoats than Paolo Di Canio’s, but, as you rightly point out, it would be best if we could read about something less trivial. Which rather begs the question – why aren’t you writing it?