Zola - Neill move was my idea’

WEST HAM boss Gianfranco Zola certainly sprang a surprise for the Hammers fans and probably the Sunderland management with the selection of skipper Lucas Neill in a central midfield role on Saturday, writes DAVE EVANS. It looked like something of a gamble

WEST HAM boss Gianfranco Zola certainly sprang a surprise for the Hammers fans and probably the Sunderland management with the selection of skipper Lucas Neill in a central midfield role on Saturday, writes DAVE EVANS.

It looked like something of a gamble and it didn't work perfectly, but in the circumstances, it proved to be another masterstroke from the little Italian.

"It was my idea," confirmed Zola after the game.

"I think Lucas Neill is a very intelligent player. I've played him right back, left back, central defender and he has always done a good job.


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"He is intelligent and he has good technical ability, so I was 100 per cent sure that he would have done the job."

When you are making such a drastic change in your line-up, it is normal to work on it in training, but with Neill not returning from international duty in Australia until Friday, there was absolutely no time to work on the new system.

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"It came off the cuff, so it was very pleasant," admitted Zola.

"But I think when you have a team with such a fantastic team spirit, whoever you play comes in and it is easy for him to do the job."

Neill's move into midfield is likely to be shortlived, with Radoslav Kovac and Scott Parker expected to be fit for the trip to White Hart Lane this Saturday.

But Zola will certainly appreciate that he has a combative, tough-tackling player, who can step into the middle of the park and do a job for him.

It may not be his first choice position, but the skipper has shown that he is ready to play anywhere for the West Ham cause.

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