In his first press conference as Sunderland coach Paolo Di Canio refused to be drawn on his colourful past political statements and gestures insisting he only wants to talk about football.
The 44-year-old was banned for one match in 2005 for a Nazi-style salute to Lazio fans and later told an Italian news agency he was a ‘‘fascist, not a racist”.
Di Canio had sought to calm the waters on Monday by releasing a statement that suggested he had been quoted out of context.
He said: “there was a very, very good statement from the club, (with) very, very clear words that came out from me and I don’t want to talk about politics for one reason, because I’m not in the House of Parliament I’m not a political person, I only want to talk about football.
His appointment prompted the resignation of former foreign secretary David Miliband from the club’s board while it has received mixed reactions from the Sunderland faithful, who could also be forgiven for feeling slightly nervous about Di Canio’s lack of topflight experience.
Prior to his Sunderland deal the Italian had only ever coached Swindon Town who he guided to promotion from League two.
His principle mission at Sunderland is to keep the north east club in the Premier League.
They are currently one point above the drop zone in 16th place and without a win in eight games.
They have only seven matches remaining to pull away from danger.
Di Canio’s first match in charge of the relegation-threatened club is at Chelsea on Sunday.