Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has revealed he offered to resign after facing accusations of fascism just days into the job.
The Italian was appointed at the Stadium of Light in March after a poor run of form under Martin O’Neill had led the Wearside outfit to the brink of the relegation zone.
However, the 44-year-old faced immediate scrutiny as MP David Miliband resigned from the club’s board days later and cited Di Canio’s political leanings as his reason for doing so.
A 2005 interview in which Di Canio declared himself “a fascist, not a racist” was repeatedly referenced in the aftermath of the former West Ham forward’s arrival.
And he has now claimed that he offered to walk away from the role as a result.
“I said to the directors, ‘If I represent a problem, I will go away’,” he said. “The answer was, ‘You stay here, you have our trust’.”
Di Canio went on to express astonishment over the reaction to his move to Sunderland, particularly given that he had already managed in England for two years .
“I am still surprised. In 2011, when I was appointed by Swindon, there was a bit of controversy then everything settled down,” he added.
“I thought certain remarks were excessive and it got whipped up into a political event.
“The exploitation was clear because the Labour MP David Miliband had let it be known a month before that he would be going to the United States, but his resignation got linked to my arrival and it became an issue about him.
“Here in England they make this equation – fascism equals bombing during the second World War, equals Nazism.
“I never approved of the way that fascism degenerated. I supported the politics in the initial phase, but I have distanced myself onwards from the racial laws.
“I have never been a racist and my life speaks for me. I am a man of the right, but I am not a racist.”
Di Canio also predicted that the controversy will rear its head once again should he fail to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.
“It has been an extraordinary experience. I have won seven points and bettered the average of my predecessor Martin O’Neill, but if I don’t save the club, I fail and the chaos will explode again,” he said.