LONDON (Reuters) - An unhappy Gianfranco Zola is taking advice from the League Managers Association (LMA) after being sacked as West Ham United coach on Tuesday.
The 43-year-old Italian’s torrid relationship with the club’s owners ended in a predictable split when the Premier League team announced they were terminating the four-year contract he signed in April 2009.
“I am extremely disappointed to be leaving,” Zola said in a statement issued by the LMA. “Over recent weeks I have been the subject of various adverse comments, from within the club, which have been widely reported in the media.
“The termination process of my contract is now in the hands of the LMA and I therefore will be making no further comment at this stage.” Earlier, West Ham issued their own statement saying they had ended Zola’s deal.
“The board of directors would like to thank him for his contribution and wish him well for the future. The club will now be focussing its efforts on seeking a replacement,” said the east London team.
Former Chelsea and Italy striker Zola joined West Ham in September 2008 for his first club management job but after a promising start he went through a turbulent time this season and the team only just avoided relegation.
Heavily in debt after the collapse of ex-owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson’s business empire, the club were bought by former Birmingham City owners David Gold and David Sullivan in January and Zola’s future has since been the subject of intense media speculation.
West Ham fans had got used to behind-the-scenes chaos under previous owners and must have hoped that when local boys-made-good Sullivan and Gold took over things would settle down.
Sullivan, however, made regular public criticisms of the players and management.
In March he posted a letter on the club’s website condemning the team’s tactics as shambolic and pathetic, saying “Individually we have some very good players but this is not being converted into a good team performance.
“Nobody at the club should delude themselves that we are a good team. The table does not lie.”
If that was not a clear message at his dissatisfaction, the announcement he would listen to offers for anyone in the squad except midfielder Scott Parker and that there would have to be wage cuts next season certainly were.
Zola also found out through the media West Ham were planning a bid for West Bromwich Albion midfielder Graham Dorrans, a player he said he had never discussed with the owners.
One of football’s nice guys, a man who always used to play with a smile on his face, Zola was aghast.
“If I was Mark Noble or Robert Green or Valon Behrami I wouldn’t be very pleased to hear I’d been put up for sale. I didn’t know,” said the Italian.
“It is not pleasant. You don’t like it but this is the way it goes. I have been surprised so many times this year so I am not surprised that I am surprised.”
The former Italy under-21 assistant coach, who replaced Alan Curbishley as West Ham manager, capped a strong 2008-09 campaign with a ninth-place finish and penned a new deal until 2013.
Boardroom changes, financial uncertainty and the poor form of his team contributed to a much tougher time this season as the club finished 17th, one place and five points clear of the relegation zone.
“Despite what has been a very difficult period for me, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at West Ham,” said Zola. “I would like to sincerely thank the players and my staff for their continued support, hard work and commitment.
“I am extremely proud of their efforts, over a long and difficult season, in retaining West Ham’s place in the Barclays Premier League. West Ham is a great club, with fantastic supporters and I wish the club every success in the future.”
Croatia coach and former West Ham defender Slaven Bilic, Portsmouth boss Avram Grant and former Manchester City coach Mark Hughes are the bookmakers’ favourites to fill the vacancy.
Additional reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Tony Jimenez