Paolo Di Canio hails ‘gentleman’ Roberto Martinez as he bids to topple Wigan

SWINDON’S Paolo Di Canio sees a lot of himself in Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, his opposite number in today’s third round FA Cup tie.

The two managers come face to face for the first time at the County Ground in perhaps the biggest test of Di Canio’s embryonic managerial career to date.

And for the Italian, who has been in charge at Swindon since May last year, the chance to pit his wits against Martinez cannot come soon enough.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

The former Celtic midfielder considers the ability to relate to his squad as one of his best qualities, something he believes he shares with Martinez.

“My opinion on him without knowing him properly is that he is a fantastic person, a gentleman and a sportsman in the right way,” said Di Canio.

“He’s calm and, even in the worst moments in a game, I look at him and he’s cool to give the right advice to the players. I like the way he handles his team.”

Di Canio has made a remarkable start to life in management. Appointed to a relegated club down on confidence and split by dressing-room cliques, the 43-year-old set about dismantling and rebuilding the Wiltshire side.

After a worrying start to the season, during which time the Robins lost four of their first five games in npower League Two, Di Canio has guided his squad to fourth in the league, the third round of the FA Cup and the regional final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Such form may not have gone unnoticed among boardrooms in the higher divisions.

Meanwhile, Sunderland’s rejuvenation under Martin O’Neill does not concern Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson ahead of the FA Cup meeting between the two sides on Sunday.

When the draw was made at the start of December Sunderland looked in disarray. The Black Cats had just sacked Steve Bruce and were in the bottom three of the table.

A potential upset looked on the cards, and the tie at London Road was selected for live television coverage. However, O’Neill’s arrival on Wearside lifted spirits and performances – and ultimately results.

A month on and Sunderland are now sitting in 10th place after four wins in six games under the Irishman.

Ferguson does not worry that the Black Cats have hit a run of form ahead of the clash with his side and believes Posh are capable of causing problems for their top-flight visitors.

“We are unbeaten in our last five Championship games, and in big games against the likes of Leicester, Middlesbrough and Birmingham. It won’t be easy because Martin O’Neill has certainly got them going.

“We are all really looking forward to it, we feel we can give anyone a game here at London Road.”

Meanwhile, Gillingham’s FA Cup third-round match with Stoke today will go ahead after the npower League Two club reached an agreement with Kent Police.