PAOLO DI CANIO says the hostile reception awaiting him at Villa Park on Monday night will be no more threatening than seeing the late Luciano Pavarotti in concert.
Sunderland’s head coach angered Villa supporters when in charge of Swindon earlier this season after being perceived to mock the Premier League strugglers at the conclusion of October’s Capital One Cup clash.
Di Canio insists his gestures were misinterpreted after Villa’s last-gasp 3-2 win, claiming he was simply conveying a message to Swindon’s fans that the Robins were on top of their loftier opponents for much of the encounter.
But Villa’s travelling faithful perceived that Di Canio suggested they were going down this season and are expected to convey their anger when Sunderland head to the West Midlands on Monday.
Di Canio is no stranger to animosity from opposition supporters though and after the reception he received at St James’s Park a fortnight ago, the Italian says he has no sense of trepidation.
“I wasn’t worried about Newcastle who are the worst enemy supporters for us, so you can imagine, I’m not worried about Villa Park,” said Di Canio.
“For me, it’s like going to the theatre or seeing Pavarotti when he was still alive. It’s an easy place to go.
“I hope they are going to concentrate their energies on me, I’m not worried.
“It’s important that my players get the result we want and then celebrate and smile.
“If I receive another 2,000 bad words about me, I can add that to the millions I got in the past in Glasgow, Rome and Milan!
“It’s not an issue.”
Far more important for Di Canio is to produce more euphoria for Sunderland’s supporters, as the Black Cats look to secure a third successive Premier League win – a result which he believes would secure top flight survival.
Sunderland have sold out their travelling allocation for Villa Park, despite the game being televised, and Di Canio says that following does provide an extra incentive for the players.
“It speaks for itself, they are unique in some ways,” added Di Canio.
“I knew before moving to the North East, everybody told me about the passion around this area.
“It’s not a surprise because it’s well known everywhere.
“But I want to thank them once again. I’m sure they will be louder than the opponents, like at Newcastle.
“They’re crucial for our players, to receive this support every time is amazing.
“You get a surge of adrenaline around your body when they sing your name and I hope we are going to make the performance that will satisfy them.
“This week is the most important week of the season because if we win Monday, we stay up with three games to go. Probably not mathematically, but we stay up.”