Gianfranco Zola is one of the most likable characters in the game. I’ve spent some time chatting with him in the past and found him to be a thoroughly nice guy. His knowledge of football is understandably high and he has an aura about him that commands respect. He wasn’t a bad player either as it happens.
So it’s with some regret that I say this, but I genuinely fear that West Ham have made a truly terrible decision in appointing Zola as their new gaffer.
My first instinct when I read that the Italian was West Ham’s ‘first choice’ was to ask myself why. Has he been trailing a blaze of wonderfully inspired results as manager of Italy Under-21’s, I asked myself?
So I looked. And the first thing I noticed was that he wasn’t actually the manager after all. He was assistant to Pierluigi Casiraghi. Oh. But they have been flying though, right? Er, actually no.
They finished third behind England in the UEFA European Under-21 Championships in 2007 (their worst finish since 1988) and scraped through to the Olympic Games on the basis that England didn’t send a team. Out in Beijing they were beaten in the last eight by the mighty Belgium, and since then they’ve recorded two draws against Greece and Croatia. Not exactly mind blowing stuff.
The fact that Zola has no UEFA Pro Licence isn’t a big deal. That doesn’t make you a good coach, or more importantly, a successful manager. What does bother me is that this is in effect Zola’s first ever taste of management and yet he still comfortably beat off competition from the infinitely more experienced Donadoni, Laudrup, Collins, Zico, Terim, Allardyce… the list goes on.
I’ll hazard a guess that it was all about getting a ‘star’ in at Upton Park. The grey, expressionless Alan Curbishley spell had left the Hammers in somewhat of a sleepy (but not unsuccessful) stupor, so it was time to bring in someone with bright lights over their head.
The trouble is he’s a Chelsea man. Just 12 months ago the Italian went on record to say that his dream was to be manager at Stamford Bridge one day. How does that sit with you Hammers fans?
Here are some of the reasons West Ham have outlined as to why Zola was their first choice;
- He can speak good English
- He can talk about football
- He knows the Premier League
- He has helped develop young players
- He was a world class player
- Experienced players respect him as a footballer
Based on that criteria, why on earth did the Hammers overlook David Platt, or better still, Arsenal’s incredibly successful youth supremo Liam Brady? At least he’s played for West Ham.
Joking aside, this appointment was clearly all about the name. There isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest Zola is any good at all and that makes this a gamble of the highest proportions by West Ham.
I quite like the Hammers so I hope they do well, but I fear that the Zola era could turn out to be an absolute disaster.
This article was originally published on 4sportsake.com.