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Zola named as West Ham manager

September 12, 2008 11:44 IST

Gianfranco Zola, one of the greatest overseas players to grace the English game during his seven years at Chelsea, was named as the new manager of their Premier League rivals West Ham United on Thursday.

The 42-year-old, who signed a three-year contract, also had a glittering international career with Italy and was working as assistant coach to the Under-21 Italy side before deciding to accept West Ham's offer and move back to London.

He replaces Alan Curbishley, who resigned a week ago because of too much board interference.

Although he is the Hammers' fifth manager in seven years, he is the first foreigner to manage the club which remains closely linked to their working-class, east London roots.

"In my first experience in England I had seven wonderful years with Chelsea, and that is something I will never forget," he told a news conference when he was unveiled as the new boss at Upton Park on Thursday.

"But now I have the possibility to have another great experience as a manager and I hope my next few years will be as good as my first seven. That's my aim, my target.

"I will do everything I can, with all my power, to make it work. This is a very important part of my life and what is important is this club which has put their faith in me and I will try to make it work for them."

West Ham said Zola was the unanimous choice of the board who had drawn up a list of "high calibre" candidates.

"I am very delighted, it's a great honour to be given such an important job," he added.

"I thank the board for choosing me and (director of football) Gianluca Nani for supporting me."

Zola is expected to get his first taste of action against Newcastle United in 10 days' time with Kevin Keen taking charge of the first team for Saturday's league match at West Bromwich Albion.

The Sardinian, who has been in charge of Italy's under-21 team with Pierluigi Casiraghi, was preferred to former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni whom West Ham said they also interviewed for the managerial position.

Zola's appointment had been widely expected despite his lack of experience in club management.

"I know I'm not the most experienced manager but I've been in football for 20 years and know what I'm talking about," said Zola, who played more than 300 games for Chelsea.

"I trust my knowledge of the game and believe the players will help me. I am confident everything will be alright."

He also admitted that transforming West Ham into a team that would regularly challenge for trophies was something that appealed to him.

"My idea, my philosophy is to play offensive football," he said. "I know the West Ham fans have high expectations but I like a challenge as you have probably noticed in the past. It sparks me up. I am not afraid of that. I cannot wait to start working with this team."

Mike Collett
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