THERE CAN be no joy in life without despair in life. A paraphrase of the quotation from French novelist Albert Camus, maybe, but it contains an eternal truth.
Swindon Town boss Paolo Di Canio is the living embodiment of that phrase at the moment.
In his first managerial post, he is five points clear at the top of League Two with three games to play. He has claimed that this year has been the most satisfying of his entire career.
And yet on the eve of a potentially wonderful achievement, his mother Pierina passed away last Friday, just weeks after the death of his influential dad Ignazio.
Paolo returned from his mother’s funeral in Italy to learn that many of his players were out on a drinking binge into the early hours of Sunday morning. The squad may legitimately feel that only an extremely unlikely conflation of results can now prevent them from being promoted.
They may also have wanted to ‘wet the baby’s head’ after stand-in captain Alan McCormack’s partner gave birth to a daughter on Saturday afternoon, causing him to be a late withdrawal from the 1-0 victory over Plymouth.
But their job is not yet done and it was perhaps no coincidence that they turned in arguably their poorest display of the season when being beaten by Aldershot on Tuesday evening. Any more performances like that could see the title that they have so richly deserved over the first 42 matches of the term snatched away from them by Shrewsbury. Di Canio has preached discipline and professionalism from the outset and has never wavered. One can only imagine the volcanic eruption the squad faced on his return.
Four players, who played on Saturday, lost their places in the Tuesday starting line-up and there could be further repercussions. If I were a loan player thinking my future contract with Swindon was a shoo-in, I might not be feeling so comfortable now.
At least Gillingham FC and the Kent police having now settled their differences, meaning the game on Saturday does not have to be played behind closed doors. Instead, 1,400 travelling fans can celebrate possible promotion or the title win there, although the big party will be reserved for the final home game against Port Vale.
Two further asides. According to The Sun we now have much cooler music celebrity fans than Jamie Cullen with the revelation that darlings of the indie rock scene, The Black Keys, have watched Town this season, their tour manager being a diehard fan.
And what do you know about prolific non league striker Bill Hunt of Essex Senior League side Witham Town, who reportedly scored a hat-trick recently when being watched by Town scout.