'˜Tomorrow you play, fat boy': Si Ferry on life under Paolo Di Canio

Peterhead midfielder Si Ferry has opened up on his experience of playing under former Celtic star Paolo Di Canio at Swindon Town, on his Open Goal show.

Paolo Di Canio shouts instructions from the touchline during his time as Swindon Town boss. Picture: Getty Images

Ferry, who played for the Robins on loan during the 2009/10 season before joining on a permanent deal in 2010 until 2013, made 175 appearances for Swindon and scored nine goals.

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And his time under the fiery Italian manager, who was in charge at the County Ground between May 2011 and February 2013, was particularly memorable, as he recalled in an interview with Chick Young.

Simon Ferry celebrates a goal for Swindon. Picture: Getty Images

Asking Ferry if a fair summary of Di Canio was a ‘likeable maniac’, Ferry said: “I loved him. I loved his enthusiasm, his character... his patter was brilliant. Just a real character who loved football.”

Ferry revealed that on Di Canio’s first day as Swindon boss, he had a rather unfortunate run-in with the former AC Milan forward.

“First day he came in, everyone’s getting weighed. Knowing how good a summer I had had, I went on the scales, and I think I was 80 kilos or something.

“Di Canio said, ‘you don’t play for me until you are 72 or 73 kilos, fat boy. Fat boy.’

Simon Ferry celebrates a goal for Swindon. Picture: Getty Images

“So I got my head down, I was working hard, I was doing all right - I wasn’t playing but I would do extra running after training.

“He was raging with [me] but after all the boys had trained, I would run and he would do it with me.

“’Come on Simon, come on, we’ll do this together’. Imagine your manager doing that.”

But any positivity Ferry had felt from his new gaffer evaporated during a pre-season friendly.

“We seemed to be getting on a bit better and then a pre-season friendly comes, and there’s youth team boys on the bench. I can’t remember who we played but I think we were winning 2-0 and there’s about two minutes to go, and I looked round and everyone else has been on except me,” Ferry recalled.

“Two minutes to go, [Di Canio] says ‘right Simon, come on, you’re going on. And I think I made a face or did something stupid, and he says ‘No! No. No, you don’t go on. You don’t go on.’

“Back in the dressing room, nothing’s said. At the meeting the next day, he says to me, ‘This guy was third choice central midfielder - after his actions yesterday, fourth choice central midfielder.’”

Ferry admitted he was pestering his agent to get him a move away from the club but was told that no one wanted to sign him.

The former Celtic youth player continued: “So I kept the head down, kept working hard. Fortunately enough for me we had a terrible start to the year. I think [Di Canio] lost his first four games.

“He pulled me into the office and said ‘Okay fat boy, tomorrow you play. You play tomorrow, okay?’”

“So I played, did well, and that season we won the league. I think I played the most minutes of any player in the team.

“During the summer he phoned me in Glasgow and said ‘I just wanted to thank you for everything you did, thank you for sticking me out.

“’I respect how you were at the start and I respect that you stood up for beliefs and I respect that you stuck at it when I was horrible to you. As long as I’m here, you’ll be here’.”

Young asked Ferry if was surprised that Di Canio hadn’t made the mark on the English Premier League that many had expected him to, despite his rescue mission in saving Sunderland from relegation.

“I thought he would be a top, top manager. His coaching, his attention to detail, his man-management was great. On the training ground he was amazing,” Ferry said.

“He took every session, every drill, his shape was brilliant. We played so many higher teams and we beat them just due to his tactics.

“It didn’t matter if you were the best player in the team or the worst, he’d treat you exactly the same way.”

• Si Ferry was speaking to Chick Young on the Open Goal Sport show