Friday, September 11, 2015

11 September 2008 - The Hammers Order Italian

On 11 September 2008, former Chelsea star Gianfranco Zola took over as manager of West Ham, making him the Hammers' first boss from outside Britain. Unfortunately for Zola, it didn't work out and the club sacked him after only two seasons.

Previous manager Alan Curbishley had guided West Ham from near-relegation in 2007 to a 10th-place finish in 2008, but resigned in September 2008 after the board sold two key defenders over his objections. The club quickly turned to Zola, an Italian international who had spent seven seasons at Chelsea from 1996 to 2003 and won the Football Writers' Player of the Year Award in 1997. Zola's only prior managerial experience was a brief stint as assistant manager of Italy's U-21 side, but, as a player, he had earned a reputation as an intelligent and creative attacker who understood the game thoroughly.

In his first season at Upton Park, he improved upon Curbishley's record by guiding the Hammers to a 9th-place finish. But the start of the 2009-10 season saw the club beset by financial difficulties and other off-the-field issues, including a near-riot during a League Cup match against rivals Millwall. They limped to a 17th-place finish having taken only 35 points from 38 matches. Two days after season's end, West Ham sacked Zola in favor of former Chelsea and Portsmouth manager Avram Grant.

Zola currently manages Al-Arabi of the Qatar Stars League after joining them earlier this year.

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