February 12, 2000 - West Ham 5-4 Bradford City, Upton Park: Just like any great superhero, Paolo had to be broken first.
Love him or hate him, Paolo di Canio was always worth the admission price. Despite all the fuss over his political views di Canio never struck me as a particularly bad person, despite the stigma that comes with being a follower of fascism. Sure, his alleged quotes on Benito Mussolini don't paint the Italian in the best light, and his mostly failed time as a manger has somewhat tarnished his footballing reputation. But every time he graced any ground up and down the country Di Canio would almost always pull off something utterly memorable.
His scissor kick against Wimbledon will forever remain as his defining moment.
And growing up in Sheffield taught me to idolise his most comedic moment of infamy.
Only di Canio would think of something like pushing a referee over. The entirely cartoonish fall of poor Paul Alcock and Nigel Winterburn's flinch as an enraged di Canio seemed to want seconds is one of the funnier memories of my youth.
Lawro's description of di Canio as "a bit nuts" is perhaps the most fitting. For all the hate Lawro seems to get these days, he always calls things as he sees them.
But on February 12, 2000, exactly 15 years ago, di Canio took centre stage as relegation-threatened Bradford city made the trip down to east London for what turned into one of the Premier League most memorable games.
Dean Windass headed Bradford ahead in after half an hour before Trevor Sinclair scored five minutes later. John Moncur then put the Hammers ahead from 25 yards but Bradford hit back with goals in the 44th, 47th and 51st minutes thanks to two goals from the red-haired Jaime Lawrence.
Di Canio, who'd had a blatant penalty appeal turned down in the first half tried single-handedly to salvage the sinking West Ham ship. Having another clear penalty refused by referee Neil Barry understandably incensed di Canio. But the Italian, ever the emotional sportsman, didn't respond with any great anger, but merely with resignation.
As Bradford broke only for Dean Saunders to hit the post di Canio had waltzed over to the dugout, squatted down and demanded to be substituted. Presumably convinced of some conspiracy against him, di Canio had thrown all of his toys out of his pram and simply resigned himself to defeat.
The Upton Park crowd, seeing their hero in a state of near hopelessness sang out in unison.
"Pau-lo di ca-nio!! Pau-lo di ca-nio!!"
The broken Italian rose to his feet, pulled himself together, and launched into a one-man assault against the Bradford backline. Having finally won a penalty, di Canio wrestled the ball from a youthfully misguided and naïve Frank Lampard and made it 4-3. Five minutes later Joe Cole tapped in the equaliser and with five minutes left di Canio beat three men and teed up Lampard who found the top corner.
That old Match of the Day truism of "that game really had everything" has never been more appropriate. Controversy, brilliant goals, a bloke with bright red hair, a young Lampard and Cole, and a raging Italian at the heart of it all. A game no West Ham will forget in a hurry.