Zola determined to prove nice guys don’t finish last

WHEN David Gold and David Sullivan took joint-charge of West Ham last month most Hammers fans saw it as cause for celebration, writes IAIN LIDDLE. The arrival of the East End pair, who are both lifelong fans, meant the club would not be forced to sell any

WHEN David Gold and David Sullivan took joint-charge of West Ham last month most Hammers fans saw it as cause for celebration, writes IAIN LIDDLE.

The arrival of the East End pair, who are both lifelong fans, meant the club would not be forced to sell any of their most bankable assets in the January transfer window, as was previously feared and would have almost certainly resulted in relegation.

Instead the duo put managed to end the month on a positive note by signing three strikers, all of whom were full internationals, in Benni McCarthy, Mido and Ilan.

Not only did this take the pressure off Carlton Cole on his return to fitness, but also acted as a statement of intent from the new owners about the extent of their ambitions for the club.


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However, less than two weeks after the closure of the window, and having been in charge for less than a month, one man who is not immediately convinced by the pair seems to be manager Gianfranco Zola.

As ready as Gold and Sullivan are to brag to the press about potential transfer targets, it seems no area of the club's business is out of bounds when it comes to the press, with little regard for the possible knock-on effects.

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The situation came to a head this week when Sullivan gave an impromptu interview to a national paper decrying the state of the club's finances and warning that everyone at the club will be asked to take up to a 25 per cent pay cut at the end of the season, in a bid to reduce the deficit.

However, one person who was not told about this was Zola himself and, worse still, the announcement came on the eve of their Premier League game against Birmingham City.

"Would we take a pay cut?" said Zola. "I don't know what is going to happen. I can't speak for my players."

In reality, bar anyone who is out of contract at the end of the season, nobody could be forced to take a pay cut and in Zola's eyes, all the announcement served to do was disrupt his on-the-field preparations.

Sullivan was not finished yet and, in another interview, questioned the Italian's suitability for a role in such a high-pressure environment.

"Of all the managers I've dealt with he is the nicest. The question is 'Is he too nice?'" said Sullivan.

"Ossie Ardiles was the nicest guy you could meet but look what he did to Tottenham.

"Time will tell. Zola will prove himself over the next few games."

Having faced similar accusations shortly after taking over, Zola launched a stinging defence of his managerial style and insisted he will not change for anybody.

"Do I have to be horrible to do the job?" he questioned.

"I don't understand this. Everybody has their own way of doing things.

"If I did my job a different way I would be a failure. I am what I am. I believe in what I do.

"I stick to my philosophy and this won't change it. If I was asked to do something different, I would prefer to do something else.

"I respect the owners. They are different from me, but I've got principles. I'm not going to let anyone walk on my principles."

Although Sullivan has publically backed his manager, rumours persist that a downturn in results could see him replaced, with former Manchester City boss Mark Hughes reported to be a leading candidate.

"To be honest we have been dealing with so many problems it is like a Matryoshka, no?" said Zola.

"You open up a box and there's another box then another box and another box.

"For me it has been the same with problems; you sort one and then another one comes out."

While the manager and owners are not likely dinner companions in any other setting, it is now essential they put aside their differences for the good of the club.

With 13 games to go, a failure to do will surely see this nice guy finish last, regardless of his personality or the club's finances.

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