Paolo Di Canio and Ian Holloway are arguably the Premier League's two most unconventional managers so when their teams meet at Selhurst Park on Saturday evening considerable attention will be focused on the dugouts.
"I'm better looking," said Di Canio. "I know people are curious about us but we're not crazy!" Indeed Sunderland's manager believes his Crystal Palace counterpart has been portrayed unfairly by a media which delights in turning Holloway into a caricature.
"In my opinion, some people underestimate the real value of the man," said Di Canio. "He's got good tactical skills but people don't look at this because of his public expression. That is not fair. I like his passion and it's clear that he's got tactical skill. He's got knowledge. But I hope I can beat him, that my team can beat his team."After signing 11 players and implementing a whole new tactical approach this summer Sunderland are very much a work in progress as they seek their first Premier League win of the season at Selhurst Park. "Crystal Palace is a very big game," acknowledged Jozy Altidore, Di Canio's United States striker. "We need to get much, much better and, looking at our schedule moving forward, we have to look to take three points."
With a run of tough home games against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United looming, the fixture list has hardly been kind to Di Canio during what is very much an evolutionary period on Wearside.
"It's a new team and there has to be a foundation but we still haven't figured that out entirely," said Altidore who, for some of the Palace game at least, may be partnered by the Scotland striker, Steven Fletcher, who is returning to action after several months out sidelined with an ankle injury.
"I think we've bought into what Paolo is doing but we're still adjusting to it. We've got to get it right as soon as possible. We have to improve and that means working hard in training and really switching on and trying to get better.
"If you want to build something, you have to give it time. You can't just pull the switch. You have to take time to work together and you have to be prepared to work through the difficulties.
"It's a new team, we're still getting to know each other … We didn't play that many friendlies; it's not like we've played a ton of games together but obviously results are important."
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