Thursday, September 11, 2008

Zola begins his pint-sized reign at Upton Park

Well, it's official, after days and days of feverish, frantic interviews by Icelandic billionaire owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the manager-less HMS West Ham has found a new skipper, albeit one who might need a booster seat or a couple of phone books in order to see over the top of the steering wheel.

Gianfranco Zola, a man with absolutely no managerial experience whatsoever, is now charged with the unenviable task of keeping the Hammers relevant and competitive amid a slew of mid-table clubs becoming richer and richer and leaving teams like West Ham struggling to stay relevant and secure. Before Zola, they were looking at a decent run, but Curbishley exited knowing full well that he was going to be undermined at every turn. It might not be physically possible to undermine the tiny Zola, but will this move succeed?

Before I go further, I am aware that Zola's at least been involved on the non-playing side of football, as his stint as assistant to fellow Chelsea teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi with the U-21s team was rather successful: one or both of 'em got the squad to the Olympics, where they lost 3-2 to Belgium. That last bit, not so good.

18 months later, he's managing an EPL team. Forgive me if his list of credentials seems rather, ahem, short.

The best quote came from West Ham managing director Scott Duxbury:

"Gianfranco was a world-class player who wants his team to play exciting, attractive football, which is the West Ham way."
Out of the three candidates (Zola, ex-Hibs boss John Collins, and ex-Italy boss Roberto Donadoni), they went with the one who ultimately talked the biggest game.

I worry greatly for Gianfranco. Well, not too much, but you get the idea. EPL jobs don't exactly spring up every day, and West Ham's haste to find a replacement has led them to a guy with plenty of playing experience and leadership roles on the field, but very little proof of doing it off the field.

Is this really the best place to get his managerial start? A struggling mid-table club in the highest-profile, highest-pressure league in the world?

It took less than 2 months before Martin Jol lost his job at Spurs last season. Keegan? He lasted barely 8 months, 3 of which were the summer! Eriksson managed a single season at Eastlands before Trashcan axed him in favour of something more exciting, and we haven't even hit October yet.

Curbs and Koog are just the beginning, but considering the pressure in the EPL now, the pressure for the next-tier to keep some semblance of pace with the big-money teams, I wouldn't be surprised if Gianfranco's handed his walking papers before season's end.

Either way, the league, the Hammers, the press and the rest of us can all count on an entertaining ride.

Quoth Zola:
"I know I am not the most experienced manager, but I have ideas and have been involved in football for 20 years."

We all look forward to seeing them. If he can teach Matthew Etherington to do this below, he might just be manager for life.


Mike Georger said...

end of the season, absolute tops

Kopper said...

Just had to put a clip with Norwich giving up the goal, didn't ya....

Lingering Bursitis said...

Kopper: it's easily the best goal he's ever scored. The fact that it's against the Canaries is merely icing on the gelato, is it not?

Chad said...

Nice to know my faint hope of the hammers improving on last year's finish are dashed already. I feel free...

and fucking depressed. Seriously, can someone either get rid of the West Ham management or just kill me know?

And yes, I'll be at the bar watching this saturday's match anyway.