Tuesday, January 25, 2022

West Ham turn to the untried and untested Gianfranco Zola?

Following the departure of Alan Curbishley from the West Ham managerial hot seat, it seems that the club have moved quickly and effectively to find a replacement.

It is widely reported that former Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola will shortly be announced and unveiled as the new boss. It is reported that the West Ham board were unanimous in choosing Zola above the other men on their shortlist.

Just the details of the personal terms need to be sorted out and the announcement should be made later today.

Roberto Donadoni has withdrawn his application saying;

“I would like to thank West Ham United Football Club for approaching and speaking with me. I welcomed the opportunity of speaking with such a prominent Premier League club and of course, the opportunity of coming to the English Premier League. However, it does appear that the board have not yet, after some time, come to an agreement and a conclusion on who the successful candidate should be. It is important for me to feel that I have the full support of the club and I have therefore taken the decision to withdraw myself from the candidate shortlist for the club.”

The other man interviewed by the West Ham board was former Hibernian manager John Collins who apparently impressed at interview, but just not as much as Zola.

Forty-two year old Zola is currently the assistant coach of the Italy under twenty-one side and is likely to leave that post soon after their crucial European Championship qualifier against Croatia on Tuesday evening.

The West Ham board obviously feel that they have seen enough to believe that Zola has all the attributes to be a huge success at Upton Park.

West Ham fans not so sure

Judging by some of the reactions to the news, it appears that many West Ham fans are not so sure. The main objections of the fans seem to fall under three headings. Firstly, the fact that they would prefer Paolo Di Canio to take over due to his previous association with the club, secondly, that Zola has little or no experience and thirdly, the fact that Zola is inextricably linked and associated with Chelsea.

Taking the last objection first, it will be difficult for both Chelsea and West Ham fans to accept the sight of Zola at Upton Park. Having said that, it would be childish to allow club rivalry to influence the thoughts of the fans. The fact that Zola was such a model professional and generally respected throughout the game, will make the transition easier than if he had been a less likeable player.

Colourful past

In relation to Paolo Di Canio, there will be reasons that the board did not want to take a chance on him. He would have returned to Upton Park as a hero, but that is no guarantee of success. Certainly Di Canio, with his colourful past inside and outside the game, would be a greater risk in many ways than Zola.

The inexperience in relation to managing and coaching is much more of an issue. It has been said and proven many times that great players do not necessarily make great managers. There is no doubting Zola’s greatness as a player, but there is no evidence at all that he will be successful as a manager.

Zola retired from playing in June 2005 after scoring twice for Cagliari against Juventus. He left the game just a week short of his thirty-ninth birthday. As well as guaranteed legend status at Chelsea after his seven wonderful years at the club, he was also honoured by Cagliari who withdrew his number ten shirt for the whole of the following season.

Working as a pundit

Since his retirement he has worked as a football pundit in Italy and around Europe. Since 2006 he has been assisting Pierluigi Casiraghi with running the Italian under twenty-one side. The Italian Football Federation decided to give him that chance as a coach and he has repaid their faith by assisting Casiraghi, his former Chelsea team-mate, to take the Italian side to the quarter-finals of the Beijing Olympics.

Although a small amount of success has been achieved in his role with the national under twenty-one side, it is certainly fair to say that despite his greatness as a player, there is nothing in his background that seems to prepare him for the rigours of Premier League management.


I really hope that if he does take the job, he makes a success of it. Not because I have any feelings one way or the other about West Ham, but because Gianfranco Zola always comes across as one of the nicest men in football.


Graham Fisher



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