Friday, September 12

'Ello 'ello Zola

The appointment of Gianfranco Zola is a huge gamble. He was a fantastic player but as the cliché goes, great players don’t make great managers. It’s significant that the likes of Wenger, Benitez, Mourinho and Ferguson were all average or worse players.

So far Zola has only worked as an assistant to the Italian under-21 side. At least Curbishley could point to 15 years of relative success at Charlton. Admittedly the likes of Gareth Southgate can enter management in the Premiership without previous experience, but then Southgate has a chairman who is prepared to take a long-term view and not panic at the first run of poor results.

It’s also a little worrying when John Terry describes Zola as the nicest man in football, as is the fact that Zola himself appears to one day want to manage Chelsea: "Let us put it this way - one day I would like to be good enough to manage Chelsea. It is in my heart."

Was he just an easy choice because he is a star name and happy to have less than absolute control over who comes and goes from the club? I hope not. Zola is certainly making the right noises about playing attacking football and his upbeat manner will be a welcome contrast to the seemingly perpetually moribund Curbs.

One hopeful sign is that billionaire owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson might be more willing to release funds to someone he trusts. He was clearly exasperated by the huge salaries of the Magnusson/Curbishley era and a “source” has told the BBC: “It is down to Gianluca Nani and Scott Duxbury to prove they can effectively manage the transfer budget and wage bill before Mr Gudmundsson starts to invest heavily in players again.”

Yet this regime’s record with managers points to short-termism. (Will Hutton wrote an excellent piece in the Observer highlighting this problem with the new breed of mega-rich owners.)

Pardew was sacked in panic after four games under Eggert, before the transfer window had opened. Curbishley kept us up, consolidated the club’s position but was then forced into walking after just three games this season, with the club fifth and the injured players finally returning. We’ve overspent and then overcompensated and have failed to achieve any continuity of management.

We can only hope that Zola energy proves to be the answer to the perpetual climate change at Upton Park.

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