Football: Redknapp tells critics to lay off Di Canio

Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp has told Paolo Di Canio's critics to lay off the new Sunderland manager after the controversy over the Italian's political views overshadowed his first week at the Stadium of Light.

Di Canio has been forced to endure stinging criticism from Sunderland fans and sections of the media following comments he made in the past in which he described himself as a fascist.

Sunderland vice-chairman and former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband immediately resigned in protest at Di Canio's appointment as Martin O'Neill's successor, and the former Swindon boss has spent much of his first few days in charge trying to play down his right-wing beliefs.

But Redknapp, who managed Di Canio during his time in charge at West Ham, is adamant the Italian doesn't deserve to be treated with such contempt.

"It's fantastic, I'm delighted for him," Redknapp said on Friday. It's amazing how suddenly he's a fascist now he's at Sunderland and wasn't at Swindon.

"No one mentioned anything about him when he was at Swindon, suddenly he goes to Sunderland and all the dirt in the world gets dug up on him.

"I'd love him to do great at Sunderland, I really would. He was a great player for me, a good lad, a great trainer, the fittest guy you would ever wish to see.

"He will want his players to be the same, to live right, conduct themselves and eat right and be as fit as they could ever be. He will demand that from them.

"Like I said, no one started on him when he was at Swindon, as soon as he goes to Sunderland people start digging things up about his past."

Di Canio will take charge of his first Premier League match on Sunday when Sunderland visit Chelsea and the Italian has no margin for error as he tries to keep his new club in the top-flight.

O'Neill was sacked after Sunderland slipped to within one point of the relegation zone and Redknapp concedes his former player has a tough task on his hands.

"He was loved at West Ham, he was absolutely idolised by the fans. He was a fantastic player," Redknapp added.

"I don't know (if he will keep them up). He has a tough job on his hands, but he will give it his best shot."