Monday, September 08, 2008

If It's Zola, I'm Fine With That

All reports out of England indicate that ex-Chelsea striker and It
alian international 
franco Zola (pictured above top, twice) will be named as West Ham's first foreign manager within days, if not hours. There has been a subtle uproar amongst Hammers supporters -- mainly due t
o Zola's Chelsea connectons, but also as we try to get over the fact that Europe's manager du jour, Croatia's Slaven Bilic, won't be returning to his one-time Upton Park home. But when the Ha
mmers' Icelandic owners signed up Italian Gianluca Nani as technical director, you knew that the days of (now) ex-manager Alan Curbishley's tenure were numbered. This continental set-up -- with both a technical/football director and a first-team coach -- is the way forward in the Premiership. You might wonder why I say that, but think about the Hammers' recent sale of Northern Irish international left back George McCartney. Supposedly, that was the straw that broke the camel's back and forced Curbs to resign.
But let's look at it another way. While McCartney was a fine player, the club -- under Nani's guiding hand -- moved quickly to sign a replacement in Uruguayan Walter Lopez (pictured above, in Hammers' kit), a 22-year-old who played for Argentine giants River Plate. That kind of knowledge of the world market would be non-existent if Curbs were calling the shots when it comes to transfers. He wanted to sign ex-Millwall thug Ben Thatcher, for goodness sake! Curbs acquitted himself very well in his 15 years at Charlton, and he guided his boyhood club Hammers through some rocky times. But he never won over the Upton Park crowd (and, yes, I have been part of that number on five occasions, plus an away match at Derby despite my living in New Jersey) with his "caution first" approach to football. It was effective, and he is a more-than-competent manager in the English top flight. But we want magic. It's why we prefer players with a slight cutting edge like Mark Noble to the cool efficiency of a Scott Parker. We love the Di Canios and FA Cup shocks of the world -- not the dreary, grinding 1-1 tie at Boro to consolidate 10th place in the Premier League. Maybe it's pure vanity, but being a Hammer is about much more than stability. It's about (very!!) occasional magic, and if Zola can produce that then I say welcome aboard!!! Fellow countryman Roberto Donadoni would have been like an Italian version of the charisma-less Curbs, despite his pedigree. One gets the feeling that Zola -- and his potential No. 2, fellow Italian/ex-Chelsea striker Pierluigi Casiraghi -- can be the real deal. Here's hoping! We need some luck and some verve (sadly absent since Harry's tenure, Pards' Cup run and Tevez) around the place. Fingers crossed ... tightly.