17 June ~ The qualities many British football fans seem to admire most are those that bear a similarity to the contents of the average supermarket sausage: heart, lungs, guts, balls. A wide range of offal treats then, with the notable exception of brains. These characteristics are often corralled under the heading "passion" and enjoy an enduring reverence in spite of the humiliations routinely handed out to our national teams by countries who prefer to concentrate on things like "passing", "controlling the ball" and "not picking Gareth Barry". So when Paulo Di Canio stated in his first press conference at Swindon Town that he wanted "to have all players with two big bollocks", he was preaching to the choir.
His recruitment has, however, not impressed everyone. While the vast majority of fans are beside themselves with excitement, drooling at the prospect of players such a high-profile personality will attract to the Country Ground, there exists a small minority of us who argue that the brief period of publicity cannot possibly compensate for the irreversible damage done to the club's reputation by hiring a man so closely associated with fascism.
Naturally, our concerns at the selection have been dismissed as the complaints of Guardian-reading do-gooders, but at least one sponsor shared our disquiet and immediately withdrew their funding. The debate that followed the appointment revealed that most Swindon fans would apparently welcome anyone as manager if they believed he would steer them into the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy (although when Graham Rix was briefly linked to the job, it nearly broke the internet). Reading the comments on Facebook pages and local newspaper websites can be a dispiriting exercise at the best of times, but when you see that people with whom you share a common bond have chosen the image of a man adopting a fascist salute as their profile picture, you begin to question whether you really want to be associated with the club and its fans.
Elsewhere, the conversation has focused on the extent and relevance of Di Canio's political beliefs and the nastiness of his particular strand of fascism. It's a complex issue, but one that we probably wouldn't have had to consider if the club had simply appointed Paul Bodin (unless there hides a dark secret behind his amiable persona).
It goes against the grain of current popular thinking, but some things – most things – are more important than football. Although it eats up huge amounts of our time, jeopardises our personal relationships and has the power to reduce the best of us to clammy, incoherent wrecks, ultimately it's just a game. The appointment gave me the chance to consider my own moral compass and question whether I could disregard those beliefs and continue to support a club prepared to appoint a Mussolini sympathiser with a history of flicking right-arm salutes. It's something I'm still struggling with.
On purely football terms, the appointment is also questionable. Di Canio has not been involved in English football since 2004 and would presumably struggle to recognise a League Two player if he trod on his jackboots. He has spoken of his intention to borrow youth players from Tottenham and AC Milan, whetting the appetite of supporters with memories short enough to have forgotten the disastrous loan spell of Jonathan Obika last season and ignoring the fact that we have our own pool of talented young players from which to draw.
Of course, he may follow the path of previous young Swindon managers and enjoy great success. But history has taught us that this will simply lead to a swift departure and more turbulence. To coin a phrase popular among cynical wedding guests, I give it six months. David Squires