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Get out while you can, Gianfranco

March 27, 2010

Gianfranco Zola - A man under pressure

The majority of West Ham United fans would have been a little sceptical when a former Chelsea star was appointed as their new manager back in September 2008. But as Gianfranco Zola’s tenure seems to be coming to a rather abrupt end, the overriding emotion of the Hammers’ faithful is sympathy.

Zola is regarded as one of the nicest men in football, even described as “too nice” by some. Managing a football club takes nerves of steel, a strong mind, and the ability to shake off any criticism thrown at you. To this day, Zola has displayed remarkable positivity, even amongst a couple of shambolic years behind the scenes in East London. On the day he put pen-to-paper with the club, BBC news confirmed that the team’s main sponsor, XL Leisure Group, had been placed into administration. The next day West Ham cancelled all links with the company. Then, earlier this year, former Birmingham City owners David’s Gold and Sullivan completed a 50% takeover of the club, giving them overall operational and commercial control. Just two months after that takeover, and West Ham’s first foreign manager finds himself on the brink of leaving the club.

As is the case with most takeovers, the new owners often look to replace the existing manager with someone they believe can take the club to the next level. Call me naive, but I had a feeling that this one would be different. It seemed to me that things at West Ham were finally settling down, and Zola could now concentrate on all things football, rather than be distracted by off-the-field circumstances. How wrong was I.

For me, Zola is an icon and a true footballing legend. He could do things with a football that you wouldn’t think possible, and on his best of days he was unplayable. As a man, he’d seldom be seen without that famous horse-like face disguised with the widest of smiles, and because of this I feel a duty and an obligation to defend him. Despite having the lowest win % in West Ham’s history, he’s a manager with potential for success. Clearly he’s by no means the finished product and there’s still a lot we’ve yet to see from Zola, but it’s there, I’m sure.

Experience is something that people in football rave about, and nothing seems to be more precious. 629 appearances, 193 goals, and 21 years of being a professional footballer. You can’t argue with that. So what makes Messrs. Gold and Sullivan believe they have more ground to pick the West Ham team than someone with 629 times more footballing pedigree than the two combined?

Football is a business of course, and when owners feel their club are not performing to their expectations, they’re obviously going to feel the need to intervene, despite probably knowing as much about tactics and team selection as my nan. It’s at times like these when you know a manager hasn’t got long left, and it’s time for Zola to hand in his resignation before he gets the boot. Zola has far too much pride and dignity to let himself be sacked by these two cretins who will only end up digging West Ham United into too big a hole to climb out of. The inevitability of these situations seems too ridiculous to comprehend, and Zola would be better off looking for employment elsewhere.

It’s true that West Ham have been performing well below expectations this season, and with the quality of players they have at their disposal you wouldn’t have bet against them pushing for a Europa League spot. Matthew Upson, Carlton Cole, Scott Parker, and Robert Green have all played for England, with Upson, Cole, and Green pushing for a place in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad. Valon Behrami is a full international for Switzerland, and Guillermo Franco has played 20 times for Mexico. And there’s more. But can you blame the Hammers for being a little off colour with the constant facades off the field being such an obvious distraction? And can you blame Zola for not getting the best out of his players?

There has been speculation that Zola will walk out of West Ham following his team’s match against Stoke City today, regardless of the score. I hope he does, and I hope he goes on to show Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Gold just what they’ll be missing.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Hush permalink
    March 27, 2010 8:15 pm

    My heart goes out to him. I think Zola was never sure of his best team, coupled with an injury list that’d be taller than him.

    The clubs owners have shot themselves in the foot by opening their mouths to the media on a daily basis, theyconcentrated on how it would make them more popular in the East End and didn’t think about how it would affect the team.

  2. March 27, 2010 8:46 pm

    Seems like David O Leary is on the shortlist. I’m not quite sure he has more pedigree than zola considering he busted Leeds bank a/c like there’s no tomorrow and that west ham doesnt hv much money

  3. Maserati4200 permalink
    March 28, 2010 1:19 pm

    Zola is as honest as the day is long – he was as a player and is as a man.

    I hope his current troubles don’t make him become disillusioned with football. His time in management will come. He’s a special guy and was a genius on the pitch.

  4. George permalink
    March 28, 2010 1:23 pm

    Seems like he’s gone on leave back to Italy for three days whilst he gives his players a rest. He’s currently pondering his future. Hopefully he’ll come back refreshed and either save West Ham from relegation or leave and save some face.

  5. March 28, 2010 10:12 pm

    Co-owners, Davids Gold and Sullivan don’t deserve a manager with the integrity of Gianfranco Zola. Their public utterances do little except undermine everything the Italian is trying to achieve. I’d like to see Zola keep The Hammers up and then walk away, I think though, West Ham United will be relegated three or four games after the current manager resigns. Hope not!!

  6. March 29, 2010 1:17 pm

    I think its scandalous how little time managers get to do their jobs sometimes. Zola did well in his 1st season at West Ham last year, guiding them to 8th place. He’s not had so much luck this time around but the circumstances in which he’s had to do his job have been dire. Football is so short term these days. He’s a young and talented manager who just needs time to sort things out on the pitch, whilst hopefully the Davids concentrate on sorting things off it and not sticking their nose in the 1st team affairs.

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