GETTING away from it all is a common cry for people’s holiday wants.
“Ooh darling, let’s get away from it all. No post, no phones ringing. Wouldn’t it be lovely?”
What tends to happen is that people then end up watching Wheel of Fortune in Spanish while texting about how hot it is where they are and hoping that the respondent will tell them that Huddersfield has been washed away in a biblical storm.
But I had the experience of getting away from it all over the Bank Holiday.
Let me clarify what ‘all’ means.
No phone signal, no TV, no newspapers, nothing.
The only reason that in my country retreat I knew Britain was still standing and we hadn’t started eating each other 28 Days Later style, was that the place I was staying at appeared to be directly under the flight path of Newcastle Airport and that Jet 2 land a lot of flights at around 9pm on a Sunday.
So what did I miss in my two and a bit days sans society?
Well I didn’t know Martin O’Neill had been sacked as Sunderland after a run of no wins in eight games, which has left them sliding towards the Premier League precipice.
And I didn’t know that Paolo di Canio was the new manager of the Black Cats.
But I did know that pantomime Paolo had a liking for fascism.
In many ways his appointment surprised me – and the furore that followed his helm-taking has surprised me even more.
Whether he likes it or not, Paolo is a larger than life figure who creates tabloid headlines in the way that other managers eschew cliche after cliche.
During his successful stint at Swindon we had him falling out with a player he’d just signed and vowed never to play him again, and then there was the time while playing for Sheffield Wednesday when he pushed over ref Paul Alcock and was handed an 11 game benchwarming role.
But then there’s the Paolo who, when playing for West Ham, spotted an opposition Everton player was down injured, caught the ball rather than try and score what appeared to be a gimme. The Paolo who bought pizza for all the Swindon fans who helped clear their County Ground pitch of snow and the cheeky Italian firecracker who returned, in the dead of night, to his old Swindon office to retrieve some photos – without the knowledge of club bosses.
If that was all it was then Paolo would be a Roman Gazza – gifted but temperamental.
More Neapolitan than Newcastle Brown.
But on his return to boyhood club Lazio in 2004 Di Canio made straight arm salutes in the direction of the club’s Ultra element – fascist football hooligan ‘fans’. He was even fined for his arm waving but denied being a racist, instead admitting he was a fascist.
Now after his north east appointment, former Prime Minister in waiting (ho ho) David Miliband has resigned from the board of the club due to di Canio getting the top job.
The Dean of Durham, the Very Rev Michael Sadgrove, has written to di Canio to urge him to explain his political beliefs – and cast off any suggestion he is a fascist.
But after a press conference in which the former striker turned right winger (sorry couldn’t resist) was peppered with questions about his politics rather than tactics he’s vowed not talk about his beliefs any more.
I applaud the very rev asking Paolo di Canio to spell out his beliefs. If he’s not a fascist then what’s the problem? If he is, well, he gets the opportunity to explain what he believes – or doesn’t and have his views put up to public scrutiny.
Footballers are in a privileged position. They may not like it and actually even resent the media intrusion, but unlike the vast majority of us they have a powerful platform to make points be they good or bad, insightful or embarrassing.
Sadly I don’t think many fans care whether Paolo is a fascist or not as long as he keeps the Mackems in the big league.
Which begs the question of how much they would tolerate in order to get three points on a Saturday. Ultimately they, rather than the Dean of Durham , have the power, divine or otherwise, to make Paolo answer the questions and find out who they have in their dugout and whether his beliefs are compatible with both the club and wider society.
If Paolo gets sick of the questions, well I know somewhere in the north east he can get away from it all.