So what do you make of Gianfranco Zola’s appointment as manager of West Ham Utd then? I think I can imagine what Alf Garnett would have said at the news – 3 words; one of them ‘a’, one ‘liberty’ and you’ll have to guess the middle one. Or may be not, as the reaction from the WHU fans seems fairly positive.
I can’t help but think though that this signals the death-knell for the English born manager. Let’s face it, if West Ham – probably the most traditional of English clubs – now prefers an Italian manager with absolutely no experience in club management let alone Premiership management experience then what chance is there for the likes of Allardyce etc? It wasn’t long ago that big Sam was being interviewed for the England job. Now he didn’t even make the long list for the WHU vacancy.
What’s more at WHU the manager is expected to be supported by (or perhaps led by…?) an Italian Director of Football. And we’ve seen two English managers walk out of their jobs in the last week because they couldn’t handle working alongside someone in that capacity. Apparently all our guys want the same degree of authority and autonomy and control that Ferguson and Wenger enjoy over transfer policy. But here’s the new reality; the new and increasingly foreign owners of our Premiership clubs don’t want to entrust buying and selling policy involving tens of £ millions now, into the hands of some bloke who’s had as much genuine work and business experience as my 16 month old grandson.
Anyway Ferguson and Wenger don’t really handle transfer stuff. They tell David Gill and David Dein and his successor who they would like and the rest is done by the commercial guys. Assuming of course that the owners/Board are prepared to sanction it. Everything’s a compromise. Ferguson and Wenger largely get what they want because they have a track record of success whereas Keegan, Curbishley, Allardyce, Robson et al have won jack shit of any note. Plus Ferguson and Wenger can count themselves extremely lucky because some of their picks have been complete bozos.
So West Ham get one of the Chelsea ‘clan’. By all accounts Zola is one of football’s most charming and well-respected characters. He consistently ranks No1 as the best overseas player to grace the Premiership in every fan poll. And he was one hell of a player. All of which, of course, adds up to bugger all when it comes to managerial ability. It’s a huge gamble on West Ham’s part and they seem to be going for the personality factor over proven ability.
I have to confess to being an admirer of the little big man from Sardinia but I’m also of the view that it’s probably a leap way too far for someone who’s biggest managerial job to date has been as assistant coach to the Italian under 21 team. If he succeeds I’ll not only be delighted but I’ll be the first person to hold my hand up and say I was wrong. But you just know these things never work in real football, only in the world of Roy of the Rovers.
Is that still going? It’s probably Romario of the Rovers now.