Tuesday, 11 May 2010

West Ham switch off Zola power, turn to turbo-Croat Slaven Bilic

WEST HAM sacked manager Gianfranco Zola this morning - and appear ready to turn to their former Croatian defender Slaven Bilic next season.

Just three days after keeping the Hammers safe from the drop, new owners David Gold and David Sullivan wielded the axe and told the Italian he was out this morning.

A club statement ready simply: "West Ham have terminated the contract of Gianfranco Zola. The board of directors would like to thank him for his contribution and wish him well for the future.

"West Ham will now be focusing on seeking a replacement. No further comment will be made on this matter."

West Ham finished one place and five points above the relegation zone under Zola power, despite a spine of England internationals of Rob Green in goal, Matthew Upson at centre-back, Scott Parker in midfield and Carlton Cole up front.

Zola, 43, had no previous managerial experience at club level having been co-manager of Italy's Under 21s when he took over from Alan Curbishley in September 2008. The former Chelsea favourite signed a new four-year deal near the end of his first season, when West Ham finished ninth.

Zola was known to be uncomfortable with the two Davids - they made public their unhappiness with spending at the club when the former Birmingham co-owners took over at Upton Park and in recent weeks the little Italian was irked when Sullivan released quotes suggesting "everyone at West Ham is for sale except Parker".

Gold called Zola’s team “pathetic” when the lost 3-1 to Wolves and when defeat against Stoke followed on March 27, Zola said:

"I will consider overnight whether I'm doing a good job for this club or not.”

And even after the 3-2 win which secured the club’s Premier League status, Zola admitted he was not privy to the club’s approach for West Brom midfielder Graham Dorrans.

With Slaven Bilic, the Croatia manager who put England out of Euro 2008, strongly linked to the job, former West Ham star Tony Cottee said: "It was apparent right from the start Zola wasn't their man. I am pleased they haven't messed around - now the fans will judge this decision on the calibre of the manager coming in.

"They have undermined the management and the players. That doesn't make for a happy camp and I don't think the board handled it very well.”

Bookmakers have made Croatia coach and former West Ham defender Bilic favourite for the job, followed by current Portsmouth boss Avram Grant and former Manchester City coach Mark Hughes.

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