Filed: Tuesday, 10th July 2012
By: Staff Writer
15 years ago this month, KUMB.com - then known simply as 'Knees up Mother Brown' - took it's first tentative steps on an embryonic world wide web. To celebrate this inauspicious occasion we will be reproducing some of the most memorable articles we've published over the years, ahead of the new 2012/13 Premier League campaign.
For our latest dip into the KUMB archive we're going back to our fifth season in business, the 2001/02 campaign.
Harry Redknapp, sacked by Terry Brown in June 2001 for reasons that have never been fully explained has now been replaced by Glenn Roeder. Despite being widely renowned as 'the cheap option', Roeder took the Hammers to seventh spot in the Premiership in his first season.
Today's article takes us back to the midway point of the 2001/02 campaign. With rumours rife that an ageing Paolo Di Canio is on his way to Manchester United, Franko DiMcAtffio explains why West Ham could ill-afford to lose their talisman...
Divide and Rule (Where's all the magic gone?)
By Franko DiMcAtffio
First published 20th January 2002
Nigel Martyn, 35; Lee Dixon, 37; Nigel Winterburn, 37; Tony Adams, 35; Colin Hendry, 36; Gary McAlister, 37; Paul Gascoigne, 34; Gus Poyet, 34; Dan Petrescu, 34 Gianfranco Zola, 35; Teddy Sheringham, 35. Mark Hughes at 38 is too old for this team - oh! - and Paolo Di Canio, at just 33, is too young.
And another thing... The abuse Gazza and Adams, Sheringham even, have flung at their English bodies - shocking. Even Tony Gale admits Paolo Di Canio is fit - arguably the fittest player ever to grace Upton Park.
The body of a 23 year old - mercilessly subjected to a lifetime of Italian training and discipline. Paolo may be 33 but he is a long way off his sell by date as a Premiership match-winner. A lot more than the 18 months left on his contract.
Peter Beardsley armed Newcastle's race with Manchester United for the title a few years back. Teddy Sheringham is likely to go with England to Japan (and is 18 months older than Paolo). How many times have we heard the experts drone on (and on) about Sheringham and Beardsley being able to compensate for their loss of pace with quicker thinking?
When you read through the names in the Premiership OAP 11 above, it's names like Gazza and Adams that make you wonder about the usefulness of older players - not the Poyet's and McAlister's. Would Di Canio turn into an old war horse like Adams, prone to break down?
Once again we come back to Paolo - super fit. Even his missed matches point to him having a long career. Paolo does not miss games through over-working muscle or tendon, through straining a not-quite-fit body. Di Canio, like a top class racehorse or a 100 metre runner is prone to the sniffles!
So don't expect Di Canio's next few years to be a catalogue of injuries and setbacks wrought by old age. Expect Paolo, like Desert Orchid, Carl Lewis and Gary McAlister to be winning matches at the highest level for years to come. Besides, Arsenal and Everton fans will still tell you that the games Adams or Gazza do manage are the ones where their teams play best.
Conclusion? There's life in the old dog yet - in fact, like Sheringham last year, he's right in his prime.
The best three teams in England ?
Manchester United play four at the back with Roy Keane in front of them. England do the same with Steven Gerrard, and West Ham have been prone to use Michael Carrick in this role. John Moncur so exaggerated the fact he was playing between midfield and defence in the last two games it sometimes appeared he was a table footballer stuck on a bar near the middle of the table.
Alex Ferguson (no less) is convinced you need a disciplined, aggressive, three-man midfield, and a magician linking the lone striker to the all-singing, all-dancing team he spearheads. In the past, Ferguson transformed Manchester United with Eric Cantona playing behind the front men. That dominance has only been challenged when Dennis Bergkamp is on song in this role at Highbury.
Fergie replaced Cantona with Sheringham and won the European Cup. I shall refer to this rare type of player as the magician.
This role requires experience in strategy and match play, as well as mind-bending skill. Looking about the Premiership, Arsenal have two semi-reliable magicians in Bergkamp and Kanu. Chelsea have the past-it Zola, and Spurs have Sheringham winding down at the Lane. Liverpool have failed candidate Nicky Barmby, and the out-of-his-depth Emile Heskey. The magician is a rare commodity. Alex Ferguson has even failed to convert no less a player than Paul Scholes into one.
Many West Ham fans fancied Joe Cole would become one, but recent performances have cemented Cole's natural role as a Gazza, a Juan Veron - a midfielder. Matt Jansen might one day learn his trade, but he's currently far too green. Manchester United want a magician and there is only one candidate: Paolo Di Canio.
So what? Well, what that adds up to is that even at £10million, Di Canio is irreplaceable. West Ham can buy other strikers, but unless Bergkamp fancies a move they can not buy another Di Canio.
Michael Carrick is not quite a Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira, but he is a star. Keane and Vieira have eclipsed Paul Ince and David Batty who were little more than midfield thugs. There are a lot more similarities between Carrick and Gerrard, and even Carrick and Keane, than differences.
Joe Cole is West Ham's Juan Veron, and Jermain Defoe will one day be as good as Ruud Van Nistelroy. Easy comparisons - and they do not suddenly bridge the chasm between Man U and West Ham. What is clear though is that West Ham are equipped to play stylish, attacking, WINNING football, like few other teams.
And when the two sides meet? Twice in under a year Paolo Di Canio has won games for West Ham at (fortress) Old Trafford. West Ham have a magician in their ranks; Manchester United do not.
Paolo is not just effective in the Manchester United games - he has scored or set up 44 per cent of West Ham's goals according to Opta. Further, if you include direct involvement i.e. taking an important part in the build up, he is involved in 77 per cent of West Ham's goals.
West Ham may well buy another striker to replace Di Canio - but it's hard to see a Savo Milosevic and Kanoute attempting to create goals for the team, rather than shoot for themselves. Whoever is bought in, be they a gamble like Milosevic or a sure-fire winner like Kevin Phillips, it is difficult to envisage them carving as many match winning chances as Mr. Di Canio.
Besides, a team with moderate ambition would be adding to their strike force, not depleting it. Sell Di Canio and the slightest injury to Defoe or Kanoute will plunge the team into the sort of dramas Liverpool encounter if Michael Owen has a day off.
The argument for keeping Di Canio is not one of picking him for every game for the next three years - it is one of using this tremendous player as part of our fine squad (a bit like Manchester United will do).
As Di Canio has not asked for a move he will receive a £500,000 loyalty bonus, and with a percentage of the fee going to Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham will be lucky to clear £2million. Hardly a blank cheque for rebuilding. The only logic in selling Paolo Di Canio is if Paolo is forcing the sale or if the board/manager want shot of the player.
Paolo had the perfect opportunity to leave last summer; Fergie wanted him, the club had sacked Di Canio's hero Harry Redknapp, and Di Canio went on the record about his unhappiness with Roeder's appointment, Frank Lampard's sale and the lack of signings.
I keep reading speculation that Paolo is waiting till his move has gone through to slag off West Ham. WHY? He has never held back in the past. If he's so desperate to leave why hasn't he already gone? While his move has staggered along, why hasn't he given it a helping hand via the press?
Trevor Sinclair and Freddie Kanoute have both unashamedly encouraged bigger clubs to bid for them, it wouldn't be beyond Paolo to construct an 'I love West Ham but I have to leave' article. So why assume Paolo wants to stay?
Paolo has just bought a new house and his daughters are very settled at school. Paolo's wife and social scene are suited to London - he likes it. He's from Rome, not Cremona. Gianluca Vialli, his big pal for instance is at Watford - not swanning around Gullit-like demanding applause. The assumption that multi-millionaire Paolo is desperate to gamble his happiness and lifestyle on Fergie's replacement keeping him at Old Trafford past May is bold.
Paolo could have left West Ham before, Paolo could have made the move happen by now. He hasn't. Speculation that he is a Machiavellian force fiddling the fans is purely based on the fact he is Italian. Ranieri, Vialli, and Zola seem to be the souls of discretion, dignity, and morality to me.
What evidence do we have for Paolo being a raging schizophrenic loon? The Paul Alcock incident? More evidence of his on-pitch focus and desire. Paolo is not just the fittest Hammer ever, he is one of the most worldly-wise, most experienced, and best trainers ever. He is a shining example to our academy of young England stars. Paolo is not just the on field flamboyant star - he is also a diligent, thoughtful, off-field maestro.
Glenn Roeder. He's obviously yet to prove his management credentials, but regardless of how his future shapes up it is unlikely he wants to lose Paolo. Alex Ferguson is desperate to have match-winning magician Di Canio in his last season to ensure success. SURELY Glenn Roeder is desperate to keep match-winning magician Di Canio to ensure this is not his last season as manager?
Di Canio and Roeder's on-off pitch romance, which started with Paolo being outraged at Roeder's appointment has included pitch-side cuddles, blown kisses, the captain's armband, and shared marathon car trips. Like two lads down the pub who started off squaring up to each other, they now seem to be bosom buddies. Whatever you think of Paolo or Glenn it appears they both appreciate each other now.
So who wants the move?
Obviously Manchester United, but if it was just a whim of theirs the club would have issued prohibitive price warnings and loud rebuttals. The inability of Roeder to dismiss the deal implies whoever is pulling his strings wants Di Canio out.
Despite the many footballing and leadership reasons for keeping Paolo, the old accountants in the boardroom will be keen to see a couple of quid for a player who the fans love and who is prepared to speak out against the board. After the events of last summer they know they can sell Paolo without any consequences. They also know the manager can not stand up to them.
West Ham fans are now impotent. I can remember when we, the people, stopped the board cashing in on Stuart Slater. When they come to sell Joe Cole they will be fearless. We fans are so busy slagging off Roeder or Di Canio we are missing the point.
I don't believe we will ever rally again and I think the fans as a force are vanquished for ever; we are now fanatics worshiping blindly at the alter whereas we used to be a part of the church. Paolo is being excommunicated, and us with him.
Divide and rule
Once again, the fans and the trophy cabinet are suffering at the hands of the board. I doubt Paolo wants the move but if he is forced out - it could be worse than spending four months in Manchester winning the European Cup and then getting sold to Italy.
As for Roeder, accepting he is against the move doesn't make him a better manager, it just shows how weak the footballing side of West Ham is compared to the corporate side, and at some point you have to think a more established manager would have been able to keep Di Canio. However this mess turns out it reflects badly on Roeder, not as a person but as a suitable man to manage.
Manchester United's reluctance to bid high for Di Canio further implies they feel West Ham want to sell. If the whole deal collapses Di Canio and Roeder will be the winners, but the biggest winners will be us, the supporters. Next season we will have a more mature Carrick and Cole, Defoe will be fully on-line and we might have a rare magician linking it all up.
If not, there is nothing left of this club. The board will have sold our match winner, England's best defender, a young international midfielder, and appointed a puppet with a poor track record as manager.
If Di Canio goes, West Ham's ambitions are at an end and the new West stand (see below) will be a shrine to what could have been. We can't replace Di Canio, he's too rare a player. Joe Cole? Well, there's only ever been two others like him born in England. EVER.
When they're both gone we will be at the end of an era - an era of missed opportunities and dismal failure.
Relegation? Pah... We could have won the World Cup again.
2001/02 Fact File
Manager: Glenn Roeder
Final Position: 7th
Record: Won 15, Drew 8, Lost 15
Goals: For 48, Against 57 (GD -9)
FA Cup: Fifth Round - lost 3-2 to Chelsea (h)
League Cup: First Round - lost to Reading on pens (a)
Biggest Win: West Ham Utd 4-0 Derby (December 2001)
Biggest Defeat: Blackburn 7-1 West Ham Utd (October 2001)
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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