TRANMERE ROVERS will be stepping into the midst of a family squabble when they take on Swindon Town on Friday night.
The cause of the unrest at the County Ground, manager Paolo Di Canio, is also the architect of the Wiltshire club’s outstanding success on the field over the last 18 months.
The volatile Italian guided Swindon to the League Two title in his first season in charge and has put them in contention for another promotion challenge this time around.
They start Friday evening’s game in seventh place, five points behind leaders Tranmere.
However, Di Canio says he has issues with the new boardroom regime at the County Ground, and has taken to airing his opinions about the situation in the media.
Di Canio’s relationship with former chairman Jeremy Wray was close one but when Wray was abruptly replaced by former British diplomat Sir William Patey in October, doubts emerged about the Italian’s future.
Di Canio’s briefing with local journalists ahead of last Saturday’s 2-0 win at Oldham Athletic saw the former West Ham midfielder launch into a long tirade against the Swindon board, claiming him he is working in a “hostile environment” and that communication is a problem.
He also criticised the club’s youth set-up.
Supporters appear to be split over Di Canio’s method of fighting battles with club officials in public.
The Italian, meanwhile , argued that his comments should be weighed against the performance of the team on the pitch.
He said this week: “If someone else speaks about me it is normal and when I reply it’s strange?
“When someone works as a snake behind your back and someone sends out rubbish messages about how we work, what we lost, I have to shout my mouth and maybe speak to those people who already maybe sent poison and try to create a friction or problem even if there is no friction because the fans love me.
“It’s clear. How can they not love me? How, how, how, how?
“You have to be mad if you don’t love Paolo Di Canio but not in terms of a person and how he expresses his opinion, because probably there is someone who thinks as a good manager you should keep the things quiet.
“No, I have my ideas why I tell something. It’s important that we have good success and at the moment we are not doing good, we are doing fantastic. I never expected to stay three or four points off (a promotion place) at the end of December.
“I have my way to manage. I have to fight in an environment where a lot of things have changed.
“There are a lot of people who want to save their little garden but they don’t know what it means to have top professionalism. Sometimes Paolo Di Canio has to put his anger out because I don’t have any reference in the club now to relate to and speak.”
Sir William sought to calm the situation this week, saying has said there is no “great crisis or tension” at the County Ground and backing the work Di Canio is doing.
Sir William, who has been at the club for a little over two months, feels he is starting to open better lines of communication with the Italian.
He said: “I’ve also made it clear that Paolo’s in charge of football and I want him to be working.”
Sir William suggested that Di Canio could rein in his forthright views if he feels he is being misunderstood by the local media.
“I think Paolo often needs to get stuff off his chest and that’s who he is. He’s a kind of mercurial, brilliant character. His emotions are on his sleeve, you can see them, that’s how he is,” Sir William said.
“That’s part of the package. I would say to him sometimes: ‘Look, if you think you’ve been misquoted by the press then say less’. Less is more sometimes.
“His heart is in absolutely the right place. He wants what’s best for Swindon because what’s best for Swindon and what’s best for Paolo are the same things – success.”
Tranmere follow up the visit to Swindon with a Boxing Day game against Crewe Alexandra at Prenton Park. That game kicks-off at 3pm.