Paolo Di Canio has been praised by John Terry ahead of the Italian's first game in charge of Sunderland, with the Chelsea captain convinced the Wearsiders' controversial choice as manager will inject the necessary passion and urgency to haul his new club away from the relegation zone.
Di Canio will send his team out at Stamford Bridge on Sunday after a week in which his appointment has been placed under intense scrutiny due to his previously stated political views. The former foreign secretary, David Miliband, resigned as Sunderland's vice-chairman in protest at the 44-year-old's arrival, citing his "past political statements" with the Italian having previously described himself as "a fascist, not a racist". Di Canio has since been moved to issue a statement through his new club denying he is a fascist.
Yet Terry, who was not asked about the former West Ham and Charlton winger's political opinions, has long been impressed by Di Canio's attitude on the pitch and believes he can have a positive impact at a club who hover just a point clear of the cut-off. "He'll show passion and he's certainly going to have them up for it," Terry said.
"You could see how well organised Swindon were over the short period of time he was there. I've read he's told them: 'Tell your wives and your families it's going to be a lot of long days and hard work.' That's what they need because they're a great club with a great set-up, really good players and great fans. It's surprising to see them down there when we've seen them fight for so many years.
"I played against him when he was at Charlton and West Ham. He had the lot: his movement was fantastic, and he was just a really nice guy on the pitch. Always, he spoke to me after games and said: 'Listen, maybe you should do this and do that,' which was really nice at the time. He'd say that, when he made certain movements, I should maybe have been tighter. Stuff like that. I was only young at the time and had the likes of [Gianfranco] Zola and these guys teaching me every day, but from an opposition player it was quite nice to get that. It was something I learned from.
"He always gave us a battle. If there was a little tussle he'd get up and shake your hand after, that kind of thing. So he was very fair, very passionate, as we've seen with his character, and his ability was fantastic. He was a really tough player to play against, a credit and I can only speak highly of him. He'll make sure they're fighting and coming here to pick something up on Sunday, so we have to be ready."
Di Canio's managerial pedigree is born of his achievement in raising Swindon from League Two last season and into the play-off positions in League One this term, before he departed the County Ground under a cloud in February. Harry Redknapp, who signed the Italian for West Ham in 1999 and worked with him for two years at Upton Park, has defended his former player's right to manage in the top flight.
"Where was all this talk when he was at Swindon?" the QPR manager asked. "I didn't see any talk about him being a fascist then, why's it suddenly come out now he's gone to Sunderland? If it's upsetting everyone so much, why didn't they make a point of it when he went to Swindon?
"I don't actually know what Paolo's beliefs are. He's not a racist, that's for sure. That's important. I've never discussed anything like that with him. I honestly didn't know he had views that were different or that he supported this party or the other. But he is off the wall, volatile but enthusiastic, and you want enthusiastic people around you in life. If you're all sitting there miserable, he's up for it, he loves it. When he wins, he's all: 'Fuck, yeah.' That's Paolo. And he'll be hoping it will rub off on the players and the crowd. He'll give it plenty and maybe they'll respond to it. It will be interesting."