On a weekend when players from at least one relegated team turned on their ex-manager to blame him for their failings, it was heartening to see such a display of loyalty and respect to a manager who only just avoided the dreaded drop.
Many people question Zola’s future at West Ham but Scott Parker has now followed up his public display of support for the boss with a glowing tribute on the club’s website.
“A lot of people say he is a nice man but he is not just a nice man, he is an extremely talented and good manager. People will say I would support him but, from the bottom of my heart, he is a good man and he is a very good manager, along with the staff he has got here. Hopefully we can go and push on next year. The manager has helped me throughout the season. I don’t think I would have had the season like I have had personally without him behind me. He has given me massive belief and confidence and, from my reaction, you can see that I respect him.”
Despite this praise for the manager, and many of the players joined Parker in celebrating the winner with Zola, there is still much speculation that he will be relieved of his duties at the end of the season.
The man himself is not being drawn on the subject.
“The future is important but I’m not going to spend time right now speaking about things because I don’t know how things will turn out.”
Zola preferred to talk about the achievement of his players.
“Staying up would be a big, big deal because we’ve had to deal with so many problems this season. You only know half of them. It’s been difficult, but despite that we’ve stuck together. Players have put a lot into this season, not just physically but mentally. It’s been an emotional year. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and everyone will be stronger for this experience.”
Zola has a contract that lasts until 2013 but his position has become far less secure since David Gold and David Sullivan arrived at the club in January. They have made it very clear that they need to cut costs considerably and Zola’s contract includes a very high salary. On top of that, the new owners have made their feelings about some of the performances of the team very clear and all but pointed the finger at the manager.
It is obvious that Gianfranco Zola is a nice man and a football man. It is obvious that he wants the game to be played the right way and that he has the full support of his players. It is a shame that financial considerations may well see him moved out from his position.
If that does happen, I don’t think he will have any difficulty in securing another top job. He may be a relatively inexperienced manager but what he has gone through this season will have taught him a huge amount. He has conducted himself with enourmous dignity through a very difficult time.