Happy birthday Paolo Di Canio! West Ham United's iconic Italian turns 52
Happy 52nd birthday Paolo Di Canio!
Perhaps the most beloved West Ham United player of the last 25 years, Di Canio excited and excelled, frustrated and, at times, overheated during his three-and-a-half seasons in Claret and Blue.
The passionate Italian always wore his heart on his sleeve whenever he pulled on a Hammers shirt, having joined Harry Redknapp’s squad after being banned for pushing referee Paul Alcock while playing for previous club Sheffield Wednesday.
However, the gamble paid off as Di Canio inspired West Ham to a fifth-place Premier League finish in his first few months in east London.
Later the same year, 1999, he was part of the team which won the UEFA Intertoto Cup by defeating French club Metz over two legs.
The 1999/00 season also ended in memorable style as Di Canio scored an unforgettable volley in West Ham’s Premier League win over Wimbledon at the Boleyn Ground before being voted Hammer of the Year by his adoring supporters.
The 2000/01 campaign was highlighted by a FIFA Fair Play Award, which Di Canio was presented with after sportingly catching the ball while Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was left prone on the turf with a knee injury.
After things went a little sour between Di Canio and manager Glenn Roeder, the Italian maestro returned to the team under caretaker Trevor Brooking and so nearly scored the goals which kept his team in the Premier League.
Following relegation to the Championship, Di Canio was given a free transfer and subsequently played for Charlton Athletic, Lazio and Cisco Roma, before moving into management, working with Swindon Town and Sunderland.
Voted #11 in the #50GreatestHammers poll, Di Canio is now a pundit on Italian television, where he never hides his love for all things Claret and Blue.