Zola to sign for West Ham

September 10, 2008 | Filed Under: UK Box Update 
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West Ham’s new coach is the man we all expect to be announced Thursday, some of that romance has a chance of being revived. Gianfranco Zola is back in town. He is in contention for the coaching role at West Ham, although the club had been sifting through 30 applicants and narrowing down the search to such candidates as Slaven Bilic, currently the Croatian national coach, Roberto Donadoni, recently fired by Italy, and Michael Laudrup, the Dane who is heading for Moscow as the new Spartak coach.

Why would Zola, once a fabulous player but with no practical experience in club team management, head that list?Because West Ham’s decision makers have talked to him, twice. And because once you are in Zola’s company, you feel a zest for life, for his beloved sport, for the challenge of taking size and stature out of the equation.Of all the players who came to England over the past decade, Zola, at 1.66 meters, a shade over 5-foot-5, would be the smallest. Of all the foreigners who influenced the English, who inspired a fresh passion for the craft, I would place Zola at the top. He gave work ethic a good name. I struggle to recall one match in which he played for Chelsea and did not leave a mark on the performance, a smile on the face of the game.

Born in Sardinia in July 1966, the month Bobby Moore led England to World Cup triumph, Zola is a product of his own personality and his unremitting desire to make physical force irrelevant. He learned tricks as an apprentice to Diego Maradona down in Naples; he was ushered out of Italy by the intransigence of Carlo Ancelotti when, as coach to Parma, that Italian had a rigid team structure that considered Zola too small, too unpredictable, too free-spirited. Ancelotti has since learned to relax the reins sufficiently for many triumphs at AC Milan

No one can be sure Zola’s rare qualities will translate from playing to management. But it promises to be an engaging experiment.

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