THE fracas involving Paolo Di Canio and drunken revellers on the eve of Sunderland’s game against Southampton could easily have made lurid Sunday paper headlines.
All the ingredients were at the Solent Spa Hotel – late night drinking, fists and voices raised, a Premier League manager and his staff, the police being called....
But Di Canio ensured sensationalism was avoided by coming into his post-match Press conference on Saturday and giving an exhaustive chapter and verse account of the incident to reporters.
Here’s his explanation in full:
“I am glad you asked me about this because we have to clarify – otherwise I know what the headlines will be.
“Paolo Di Canio always tells the truth, so you write what I tell you!
“At midnight, I walked out of a meeting room with my staff.
“From the first floor, we walked downstairs to get the lift to go up to the third floor to go to bed.
“Obviously, the players had already gone to bed at 10 o’clock, or half-past nine – they were already sleeping.
“When we were close to the lift, we heard loud people – shouting – and it was obvious they were Southampton fans.
“But I don’t think they wanted to attack us physically, to be honest they were only three young drunk guys who were part of a wedding party that was at the hotel.
“Once we walked inside the lift, they arrived in front of the lift and started recording us with their mobile phones.
“I was at the back of the lift behind the staff, because I had walked into the lift first.
“We pushed the third floor button, but they tried to stop the lift.
“At that moment, they weren’t really aggressive but we asked them to please stop because we had to go.
“But they took advantage of the fact that we weren’t aggressive, and that we said only ‘please, we have to go upstairs. Let us go’.
“For approximately 30 seconds, my staff tried to get them to stop and keep them away.
“But they carried on stopping the door, and so we came out of the lift to call the police.
“When we came out of the lift, they tried to block us with their arms, but we stopped them.
“I tried to call the (hotel) director. I was with Fabrizio Piccaretta (Sunderland’s first-team coach) and Claudio (Donatelli, fitness coach), and they were asking for the police because it wasn’t fair that people in the hotel attacked us verbally, and also they started to physically.
“It wasn’t fair.
“I understood that the group of people knew the people working at the hotel because they used their names, and they (the hotel people) hesitated to call the police.
“But I said ‘no, you call the police’, because it is not fair.
“Two of the three lads ran away, one guy remained.
“We called the police and after 10, 15, 20 minutes they arrived and we clarified the situation.
“They told us that, unfortunately, it happens many times – not with this guy, but in general – because wedding, midnight, drunk, you can tell the body language.
“We gave our version and it was obvious that it was the only version – why at midnight, would we go to attack three drunk younger guys that screamed against us when we were in the lift trying to go upstairs?
“You can imagine that the guy was under pressure and he gave a version, ‘no, he wanted to have a picture with us and we tried to stop him and then called the police’.
“In the end, the policeman at 1.30am knocked on my door and asked me if I could tell my version again.
“I said ‘listen, I don’t have any problem. They are only young and drunk. They were never going to go to jail and I don’t want to make trouble’.
“It was a stupid moment from some silly guys under the effect of a lot of alcohol.
“We said we don’t want to proceed (with any charges), if they say sorry.
“Claudio went downstairs, they had a laugh and a joke and shook hands.
“In the end, there was a funny moment Fabrizio told me because they said ‘tomorrow, we are going to win and Rickie Lambert is going to score’ and Fabrizio said ‘no!’.
“So that was how it finished.
“But there were no footballers involved, there was no fight. This was the real situation, the way it happened.
“We also asked for the CCTV video and asked the police to check the video, but unfortunately the video wasn’t available.
“I hope that next time, in the next hotel, especially if there is a party, silly things can happen.
“One security man would be enough.”