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What makes a successful manager/coach? The Zola Problem


John Simkin
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With the speculation about Zola being given the job over Billic I thought it might be worth while discussing what makes a great manager/coach. The leaks coming out of West Ham suggest that the reason he has been given the job is his desire to play attractive football. I am sure he did say that, but he would have to be pretty daft to say anything else. Didn’t the other men interviewed say the same thing? The important point is how Zola explained he was going to play attractive football with the current squad?

Before you appoint anyone to a job you look at their past record. Of those considered, only Billic has a record of success as a manager/coach. Zola has no real record in this role. It is impossible to make any serious judgements from a brief spell as joint coach of the Italy Under 21s. Peter Taylor and Stuart Pearce have both done well as coaches with the England Under 21s but have failed dismally as managers of club sides.

The real reason that Zola has been selected over Billic is that he speaks Italian and is willing to accept the management structure at the club. For Zola it is a no lose situation. If he fails, he will blame it on the management structure. If he succeeds he will get all the credit. What you won’t get is a tried and tested candidate accepting this deeply flawed management system.

I am not saying that Zola will not be a success. In fact, I expect him to do better than Alan Curbishley, but I doubt if he is the man who can get us into the top six. As a West Ham fan I hope desperately that I am wrong. However, if history is anything to go by, he does not have the potential to become a great manager.

Here is a list of the most successful managers in Football League history (in chronological order):

Herbert Chapman, Frank Buckley, Stan Cullis, Matt Busby, Bill Nicholson, Alf Ramsay, Bill Shankly, Joe Mercer/Malcolm Allison, Brian Clough/Peter Taylor, Bob Paisley, Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and José Mourinho.

Just a few words about the managers on the list that you might not know too much about. Herbert Chapman was the first modern manager. Up until Chapman, clubs had secretary/managers. Their most important role was to make a profit for the club. Their main skill was in spotting young talent that could later be sold at a profit. They rarely did any coaching and players were expected to sort out their own tactics. The trainer’s job was to get them fit. There was little ball-work done during the week.

Chapman changed all this. He checked out the life-styles of players before they bought them. He did not like his players to drink or smoke. He needed to know that they had the type of character to improve under his tutelage. Chapman realized the importance of player confidence. When he bought a player he would tell them he was going to turn them into the best player in that position in the league. His strategy was to tell them that he thought they were the best. In fact, it was a kind of brainwashing (Malcolm Allison used a similar strategy with his players).

Chapman also introduced a new way of playing (the WM formation). He virtually redefined every position on the field. He won the First Division title with Huddersfield Town in 1923-24 and 1924-25 before joining Arsenal but his team went onto win the 1925-26 title without him. He also won three First Division titles at Arsenal (the last one achieved after he died before the end of the season).

Frank Buckley was the only other great manager between the wars. He used a similar strategy to Chapman. His main innovation was the importance of physical fitness. He believed that you needed to be superbly fit if you were to be able to stop the other side from playing (another strategy adopted by Malcolm Allison). Buckley never actually won anything when he was manager of Wolves (they finished 2nd twice in the First Division and were beaten FA Cup finalists). The reason for this is that Buckley was forced to sell the players once they reached their peak. In a five year period before the Second World War, Buckley made over £100,000 profit for his club in transfer deals. This was a tremendous sum in the 1930s and he was paid well for turning Wolves into a highly profitable club.

Stan Cullis was appointed captain of Wolves by Buckley at the tender age of 18. Buckley told him he was going to make him the best captain in the league and in time he would be the best manager. Cullis became manager of Wolves after suffering a serious head injury that stopped him from playing the game. Cullis adopted the same strategy as Buckley and as he was allowed to keep his best players. He won the league in 1953-54, 1957-58 and 1958-59.

If we look at the list above we can identify certain similarities. They were either very moderate players or in the case of Cullis and Clough were reasonable players but whose career was ended prematurely. Mercer was fairly good but he left the coaching to Allison. There is a reason for this. Naturally gifted players are nearly always bad coaches. They find it virtually impossible to understand how to coach someone to greatness. There is the story of how Glen Hoddle used to use training sessions to show how much better he was than his players. This is just an exaggerated form of the problem for the highly skilled player.

Except for Chapman, Clough and Ferguson, the successful managers have all been defenders. All three men were strikers and were not playmakers like Zola.

Nearly all the managers learnt their trade at small clubs whereas Zola only has experience of coaching the Italy Under-21 team.

Zola has all the traits of being an unsuccessful manager. The only chance of success is for Zola to appoint a high-quality coach to work with the players.

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Guest Gary Loughran

Great piece John. I would add George 'stroller' Graham as well. A man whose idol was Herbert Chapman.

It seems a done deal that Zola is our new manager at West Ham. How disappointingly poor an appointment is that? A foreign Glen Roeder, no more, much less.

As you have said previously, and I agree, it is a purely protectionist move by Nani (and perhaps others at the club). Zola had the least pedigree of any 'named' contender. A list with little or nothing to excite any West Ham fan. This club has a catastrophic ability, like no other, to appoint the wrong people - and disappoint the right people. I can't believe this is our new manager. I truly expected that after the England game a positive announcement would come from Bilic's camp (the only candidate I would've given consideration to on the list).

The fabric of West Ham many start to come apart now. I am not anti-foreigner, but we have no local input at the club and I wouldn't trust Duxbury to get me a loaf of bread. If we went foriegn I wanted someone bigger than the club - instead we got someone who could walk under a turnstile. Furthermore he will have no 'manager' role, despite what press spin West Ham put on it. If we just wanted a coach of the first team - playinging with Nani's acquisitions - then surely Kevin Keen could've done that...at least until a real tried and tested manager became available.

I'm sorry but I'm not playing 'wait and see'...I have no reason to believe this will be a success and I'll call it now.

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Great piece John. I would add George 'stroller' Graham as well. A man whose idol was Herbert Chapman.

It seems a done deal that Zola is our new manager at West Ham. How disappointingly poor an appointment is that? A foreign Glen Roeder, no more, much less.

As you have said previously, and I agree, it is a purely protectionist move by Nani (and perhaps others at the club). Zola had the least pedigree of any 'named' contender. A list with little or nothing to excite any West Ham fan. This club has a catastrophic ability, like no other, to appoint the wrong people - and disappoint the right people. I can't believe this is our new manager. I truly expected that after the England game a positive announcement would come from Bilic's camp (the only candidate I would've given consideration to on the list).

The fabric of West Ham many start to come apart now. I am not anti-foreigner, but we have no local input at the club and I wouldn't trust Duxbury to get me a loaf of bread. If we went foriegn I wanted someone bigger than the club - instead we got someone who could walk under a turnstile. Furthermore he will have no 'manager' role, despite what press spin West Ham put on it. If we just wanted a coach of the first team - playinging with Nani's acquisitions - then surely Kevin Keen could've done that...at least until a real tried and tested manager became available.

I'm sorry but I'm not playing 'wait and see'...I have no reason to believe this will be a success and I'll call it now.

I also posted this on KUMB and received a lot of flak for my troubles. West Ham fans have put on their blinkers now that Zola has been appointed as they are so keen for him to be a success. As T. S. Eliot once pointed out: “Human kind cannot bear much reality.” He also said: “Only by acceptance of the past, can you alter it.”

Some fans are even arguing that a “director of football” system can work. It is true that having a director of football and a manager works in other countries. In fact, it even works in England, see for example, the case of Stoke City. However, in these cases, the manager employed the director of football or they were employed together. The problem with the West Ham management structure is that Nani was employed by the board sometime after Curbishley took office. This was a scheme that was bound to fail as the manager must be allowed to make the important decisions concerning the team.

Nani is clearly the most important figure in the club yet what record has he got for deserving this role. He is also an Italian who will clearly be interested in working with fellow Italians. This goes completely against the culture of West Ham. Nani will do what has happened at “Spanish” Liverpool and talented young Italians will be drafted into the Academy. Eventually, Tony Carr will be removed and replaced by an Italian (in the same way that Steve Heighway was removed at Liverpool).

I suppose many supporters who want the same sort of success with clubs filled with foreign mercenaries. However, as a supporter for 50 years this approach horrifies me. I still see West Ham as a club that represents the community rather than a global brand.

I have no objection to West Ham employing a foreign manager, although I do wish he had some sort of track record that suggests he will be successful. However, I am totally opposed to the club being run by a director of football who cannot understand what it means to be a community club.

Even so, I am not convinced as much as you that Zola will be a failure. I think the board will get behind him in a way that they never did with Curbishley. In fact, the appointment of Nani was a way of forcing him out.

There is an interesting interview with Zola that took place a couple of months ago. He admits that he was offered employment by Roman Abramovich at Chelsea but he turned it down because he did not think he had enough experience to “be ready for a club he cared so much about”. He obviously does not feel the same way about West Ham.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/t...utd/7605386.stm

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I think the situation would be dramatically changed if Zola appoints Steve Clarke as his coach. Clarke is someone who has a great record of success in the premiership. He has also worked with players of the highest quality and will get the respect of West Ham’s current squad. Something that Curbishley/Day failed to do.

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Guest Gary Loughran
I think the situation would be dramatically changed if Zola appoints Steve Clarke as his coach. Clarke is someone who has a great record of success in the premiership. He has also worked with players of the highest quality and will get the respect of West Ham’s current squad. Something that Curbishley/Day failed to do.

John, again I agree with , and share in the whole, your comments above (last 2 posts). I have often thought you are too attached to the English manager notion for West Ham. However, I see you, like me, were open to a foreign manager (or indeed any manager) with pedigree.

The need, and it is a need, for a Clarke type figure is an indictment of the ability of Zola to manage the club.

I wonder if Donadoni's admission that he was not right for us - was a discreet way of saying he was refusing to work under/with the structures in place at the club.

Whilst, the KUMB writers are by and large knowledgeable and extremely caring fans of the club - it is noticeable that the site is used by a lot of less knowledgeable (though just as caring) younger fans. Perhaps, we're just getting too old and cynical and no longer have the youthful enthusiasm for the arbitrary selection of managers :rolleyes: - I certainly feel a lot of the recent KUMB lead articles are not of the same high standard. Terry Brown could'nt have written, at least 2 recent articles, any better.

I would hope that the nightmare scenario of losing Carr doesn't happen. In many ways Tony Carr has been the most important man at the club for many years.

I will say that the community versus global issue needs to handled with caution and extreme care. I think both can be achieved through careful management. West Ham, unlike many clubs, has a special tradition and this is what makes a lot of fans...fans of the club in the first place. It is why we are so passionate and caring about the club. It is why people like us, care enough to trawl through the spin and write on forums like this. Ultimately it is why Zola should never have been appointed. Clarke would probably make a better manager when all is said and done.

However, what's done is done, the unduly swift and fixed election of our new leader has been held. Maybe politics and sport are not that dissimilar after all.

One upside the Italian in charge of the England team has seen fit to pick Ashton, Green and Upson. Perhaps Zola in his infinite wisdom will follow suit and keep an English nucleus - anything else could be potentially catastrophic for the club. Look at Liverpool without Gerrard and Carragher - it is hard to imagine supporting a club with such a variety of foreign non-entities in the East End. Unless of course we win the ECL.

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Several fans have said that they cannot understand why Clarke would take the West Ham job. To a certain extent I agree with this as he will be switching from a number 2 at a top four club to a number 2 at a mid-table club. He probably feels that he has not received enough credit for the job he has done at Chelsea. If he takes the West Ham job and is successful, people will realize how good he really is.

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Report in today's Times:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/foo...icle4736185.ece

Steve Clarke resigned as Chelsea’s assistant first-team coach yesterday evening to pave the way for a move to West Ham United, where he will work in a similar capacity under Gianfranco Zola, the new manager. The former Scotland defender has agreed a three-year contract at Upton Park and his appointment will be announced in the next few days, once the club have agreed a severance package with Chelsea. The West London club are demanding £1.2 million in compensation because Clarke has two years left to run on his contract.

Clarke’s decision to sever ties with Chelsea that go back more than 20 years came as a shock to the club, with a series of meetings with Peter Kenyon, the chief executive, failing to bring a change of heart. Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Chelsea manager, also attempted to persuade Clarke to stay, arguing that the Scot owed him a debt of loyalty after he allowed him to stay on this summer and claiming that his departure so soon after the start of the season would reflect badly on the club. But after four years as No 2 at Stamford Bridge, Clarke’s mind was made up.

He has been seeking a way out since José Mourinho left the club a year ago, despite the award of a new three-year contract in the light of the Portuguese’s departure. Clarke did not enjoy a close relationship with Avram Grant, Mourinho’s successor, although he was given wide-ranging responsibilities to take training by the Israeli, which shored up his position.

It is understood that Clarke has been effectively sidelined since Scolari was appointed in the summer, with the Brazilian relying almost entirely on Darlan Schneider, his other assistant, whom he brought with him from Portugal. Whereas Clarke was close to Mourinho and all his assistants, it is understood that he has not been invited into Scolari’s inner sanctum. Although joining West Ham will be viewed as a backward step in some quarters, Clarke considers the opportunity to take charge of the coaching at a Barclays Premier League club as too good to refuse, as well as relishing the opportunity of linking up again with Zola, with whom he played for two years at Chelsea.

Clarke’s departure is a setback to Chelsea because he was very popular in the dressing-room, particularly with the English core of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole. The club have no imminent plans to replace him.

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After six games the arrival of Zola is not looking so good. I have watched the last two games on Sky and I have not been impressed. Zola seems to be one of those managers who fails to see what is wrong with the team. After every game he goes on about how proud of his team he is. In fact, the only changes he seems to make is when players are injured. For example, Collins only came in for Neill when he was unable to play. He still thinks that Faubert is a right-back and that Di Michele is not past his best. What makes him think that after failing for a couple of seasons in Italy that he is up to playing in the best league in the world? Di Michele's performances (one fan suggested that he is the laziest player ever to wear a West Ham shirt) has not stopped offering Diego Tristan a contract. The 32-year-old has not been able to perform at the top level for several years. The real problem is that players like this are going to keep our talented young players out of the first-team. The idea of playing Freddie Sears for five minutes at the end of games is daft (I know he got 20 minutes last night but he should have started instead of Di Michele). The other problem about playing Di Michele wide is that he provides no defensive cover for the full-backs. He also lacks the speed to be any good in breakaways. That is why Etherington should have played instead of Di Michele against Arsenal. Unless Zola learns this basic facts about the Premier League we will be involved in a relegation struggle by the end of the season.

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Guest Gary Loughran
After six games the arrival of Zola is not looking so good. I have watched the last two games on Sky and I have not been impressed. Zola seems to be one of those managers who fails to see what is wrong with the team. After every game he goes on about how proud of his team he is. In fact, the only changes he seems to make is when players are injured. For example, Collins only came in for Neill when he was unable to play. He still thinks that Faubert is a right-back and that Di Michele is not past his best. What makes him think that after failing for a couple of seasons in Italy that he is up to playing in the best league in the world? Di Michele's performances (one fan suggested that he is the laziest player ever to wear a West Ham shirt) has not stopped offering Diego Tristan a contract. The 32-year-old has not been able to perform at the top level for several years. The real problem is that players like this are going to keep our talented young players out of the first-team. The idea of playing Freddie Sears for five minutes at the end of games is daft (I know he got 20 minutes last night but he should have started instead of Di Michele). The other problem about playing Di Michele wide is that he provides no defensive cover for the full-backs. He also lacks the speed to be any good in breakaways. That is why Etherington should have played instead of Di Michele against Arsenal. Unless Zola learns this basic facts about the Premier League we will be involved in a relegation struggle by the end of the season.

OK, just when I though I was out, you've drawn me back in. I'll add a little update on my current feelings before discussing your astute, as usual, post. I can honestly say that I have never, ever been as disinterested in West Ham as I have been this season. It's not that I don't care, it's that I care so much it is upsetting me, and making me constantly negative to the extent that I have tried to distance myself from the club. I don't project myself through the support of my team in the way that some fans do.

West Ham are a shambles; a circus with no ringmaster; the clowns are running the show. We are a joke team and club at the minute. Relegation is a near certainty unless there are huge changes at the club...and we don't have the resources to make those changes. Zola is pathetically incompetent. We had a chance to choose a new manager (and I know I've said this all before) bigger than the club or at least one big enough to influence the positive direction of the whole organisation. Instead we have a smiling, yes man who is utterly inexperienced and clueless in coaching and management. It is not right that we are stepping stone for Zola. We are too big for that and for him.

In singling out Di Michele and Faubert you have named 2 of the worst players ever to don the claret and blue. They are woefully inept. In fact, yesterday in work I itemised each player, in terms of the level they can play at, for a guy in work (a Spurs fan) in order to demonstrate why I feel we are potential relegation candidates. ONe must also acknowledge that it wouldn't be possible to have a softer start to the season and 12 points is nowhere near enough. Again I've made the point in other posts here, when journalists and commentators spoke of our best start in years...an ignorant joke on the behalf of these dross merchants.

GREEN - Could play for any club in England. Perhaps lacks the commanding authority of a top, top keeper but certainly one of the best goalkeepers around

FAUBERT - This man could not make the starting 11 of another premiership club, in any position. He can't even kick a ball properly (he kicks like a girl). He would probably make it in the lower half of the Championship as a winger...maybe.

ILUNGA - Below average Premiership left back. His level would be in a struggling premiership side...though he wouldn't look out of place in a struglling Championship side

UPSON - I took note of your comments and find his lack of pace a definite downside. He is however an excellent defender and could play in the Premiership for a club in the 5-8 position

COLLINS - not fair to grade until he's fit. In saying that, he is an improvement on the man he replaced.

Our Captain - Woefully inept, could do a job for a Championship team chasing top 6.

NOBLE - Not as good as people think. But could play in the prem 8-14 no problem. Could maybe break into the top 8 in time.

PARKER - Probably our best player to date, and that's saying something. Same as Noble/

BEHRAMI - Allegedly a good player. West Ham fans could not vouch for this. Maybe it's the fact he is surrounded by incompetence that makes him so poor.

ETHERINGTON - There isn't much difference in his skill as a gambler and a footballer. Could probably make an impact in a Championship team chasing a top 6 finish. He is worse this year as well because Zola's 'attacking' set-up means Etherington has to do far less work. He does less work superbly well though.

ASHTON - Fit and on his day a top player. Could play in a team just outside top 4 no problem. Unfortunately those times of fitness are few and far between and likely to lessen.

COLE - A team looking to avoid Premiership relegation or gain promotion would probalby like him as a squad player.

BELLAMY - Is gaining in sharpness over the last 2 games. Still a top striker and could play in a UEFA positioned club with ease.

MULLINS - We always play well when he's in the team. I am obviously missing something as nearly every manager has tried to ease him out. Personally I like him better than Parker and Noble, purely because he does his job better than them.

Di MICHELE - A pathetic 'swoop'. I genuinely though we'd secured a player with a touch of guile and class (as we have no player at the club with any guile whatsoever). I really don't know where he could play, in fact, the lower the division the less effective he becomes I'd imagine. He already is woefully out of his depth. Sunday League team maybe.

DAVENPORT - A solid mid-table Championship player, no more no less. Could play in league 1 without looking out of place as well

Quick edit to add - After being rampant for much of the second half the clueless Zola waits until Boro equalise before finally bringing on Bowyer for Boa Morte. I confess I'm 'watching' the game via the Sporting Life text service but any idiot knew that Bowyer had to come on. Unbelievably he didn't come on earlier. (more unbelievably he didn't start) when the wing wizard Etherington was introduced instead, much to my chagrin. Wihtout seeing the game I can easily predict that Bowyer will have more influence than Etherington. I don't believe Etherington has ever really positively influenced a game. The best he has ever done is not look out of place in the starting eleven and rarely at that. Hopefully after what looked like a good first half performance we will get something from this game in spite of the (devoid of knowledge of his own squad) manager.

A draw will likely see us no more than 2-3 points clear of relegation by the end of the weekends play.

Edited by Gary Loughran
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After being rampant for much of the second half the clueless Zola waits until Boro equalise before finally bringing on Bowyer for Boa Morte. I confess I'm 'watching' the game via the Sporting Life text service but any idiot knew that Bowyer had to come on. Unbelievably he didn't come on earlier. (more unbelievably he didn't start) when the wing wizard Etherington was introduced instead, much to my chagrin. Wihtout seeing the game I can easily predict that Bowyer will have more influence than Etherington. I don't believe Etherington has ever really positively influenced a game. The best he has ever done is not look out of place in the starting eleven and rarely at that. Hopefully after what looked like a good first half performance we will get something from this game in spite of the (devoid of knowledge of his own squad) manager.

A draw will likely see us no more than 2-3 points clear of relegation by the end of the weekends play.

I took my grandson to see the Portsmouth v Wigan game and was unable to watch the game live. My brother, who did see the game via his computer, tells me that Zola and Clarke were arguing about substitutions. It seems that Zola was reluctant to bring on Bowyer once Julio Arca began to run the midfield. It seems that Zola is unwilling to listen to Clarke’s advice. If Zola does not change his attitude, we will be relegated. I see he is already the favourite to be the next manager in the Premier League to be sacked.

I was pleased to see he brought in Sears for Di Michele. I also approved the introduction of Collison who has impressed me in the two games playing for Wales under 21s against England. I would also have liked James Tompkins to have played instead of the recalled Lucas Neill. The selection of Boa Morte made no sense to me.

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Guest Gary Loughran
After being rampant for much of the second half the clueless Zola waits until Boro equalise before finally bringing on Bowyer for Boa Morte. I confess I'm 'watching' the game via the Sporting Life text service but any idiot knew that Bowyer had to come on. Unbelievably he didn't come on earlier. (more unbelievably he didn't start) when the wing wizard Etherington was introduced instead, much to my chagrin. Wihtout seeing the game I can easily predict that Bowyer will have more influence than Etherington. I don't believe Etherington has ever really positively influenced a game. The best he has ever done is not look out of place in the starting eleven and rarely at that. Hopefully after what looked like a good first half performance we will get something from this game in spite of the (devoid of knowledge of his own squad) manager.

A draw will likely see us no more than 2-3 points clear of relegation by the end of the weekends play.

I took my grandson to see the Portsmouth v Wigan game and was unable to watch the game live. My brother, who did see the game via his computer, tells me that Zola and Clarke were arguing about substitutions. It seems that Zola was reluctant to bring on Bowyer once Julio Arca began to run the midfield. It seems that Zola is unwilling to listen to Clarke’s advice. If Zola does not change his attitude, we will be relegated. I see he is already the favourite to be the next manager in the Premier League to be sacked.

I was pleased to see he brought in Sears for Di Michele. I also approved the introduction of Collison who has impressed me in the two games playing for Wales under 21s against England. I would also have liked James Tompkins to have played instead of the recalled Lucas Neill. The selection of Boa Morte made no sense to me.

I was unaware of the arguments between Zola and Clarke, in fact, I think that's a bit of a scoop. Yes, even in the text service, it was obvious that Arca awas having an impact. I feel the press are going easy on Zola at the minute due to his popularity, generally amongst most footbal fans.

I like Sears, and there is a place for Sears and Bellamy in some games. I just don't know whether that combination allows a plan B i.e Hull it up front for the big man to knock on. (in saying that I have a theory that Hull and Stoke's success is down to the fact that PL teams haven't dealt with that style of football since Wimbledon. on paper United's 4-3 looked dodgy, but in reality it could have been 10.)

I am unsure about Collison, he was alright in the U21 games as you say. He just looks a little cumbersome to me. In truth though I don't know enough about him to comment. I do, however, like Tomkins. Could he do a job at right back? well he couldn't do any worse, and will get better is my answer. He's maybe just a tad inexperienced to play consistently at Centre Half.

Portsmouth v Wigan eh!!! One for the purists :rolleyes:

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GREEN - Could play for any club in England. Perhaps lacks the commanding authority of a top, top keeper but certainly one of the best goalkeepers around

FAUBERT - This man could not make the starting 11 of another premiership club, in any position. He can't even kick a ball properly (he kicks like a girl). He would probably make it in the lower half of the Championship as a winger...maybe.

ILUNGA - Below average Premiership left back. His level would be in a struggling premiership side...though he wouldn't look out of place in a struglling Championship side

UPSON - I took note of your comments and find his lack of pace a definite downside. He is however an excellent defender and could play in the Premiership for a club in the 5-8 position

COLLINS - not fair to grade until he's fit. In saying that, he is an improvement on the man he replaced.

Our Captain - Woefully inept, could do a job for a Championship team chasing top 6.

NOBLE - Not as good as people think. But could play in the prem 8-14 no problem. Could maybe break into the top 8 in time.

PARKER - Probably our best player to date, and that's saying something. Same as Noble/

BEHRAMI - Allegedly a good player. West Ham fans could not vouch for this. Maybe it's the fact he is surrounded by incompetence that makes him so poor.

ETHERINGTON - There isn't much difference in his skill as a gambler and a footballer. Could probably make an impact in a Championship team chasing a top 6 finish. He is worse this year as well because Zola's 'attacking' set-up means Etherington has to do far less work. He does less work superbly well though.

ASHTON - Fit and on his day a top player. Could play in a team just outside top 4 no problem. Unfortunately those times of fitness are few and far between and likely to lessen.

COLE - A team looking to avoid Premiership relegation or gain promotion would probalby like him as a squad player.

BELLAMY - Is gaining in sharpness over the last 2 games. Still a top striker and could play in a UEFA positioned club with ease.

MULLINS - We always play well when he's in the team. I am obviously missing something as nearly every manager has tried to ease him out. Personally I like him better than Parker and Noble, purely because he does his job better than them.

Di MICHELE - A pathetic 'swoop'. I genuinely though we'd secured a player with a touch of guile and class (as we have no player at the club with any guile whatsoever). I really don't know where he could play, in fact, the lower the division the less effective he becomes I'd imagine. He already is woefully out of his depth. Sunday League team maybe.

DAVENPORT - A solid mid-table Championship player, no more no less. Could play in league 1 without looking out of place as well

A agree with most of these comments. I think you underestimate the potential of Noble and Cole and probably overestimate the abilities of Mullins.

The real disappointment has been the form of Valon Behrami and Julien Faubert. This is reflected by their overall ratings for the season so far. Also in the bottom four are Lucas Neill and Luis Boa Morte. This is no surprise as both did badly last season (as did Faubert). We have a bad record for buying established stars and past history suggests Zola should spend more time developing our home-grown youngsters. The up to date ratings can be found here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2007WHsquad.htm

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Can't score and can't defend. A recipe for disaster.

But hey, as long as we look good getting bad results, that's all that matters, after all that is the West Ham way...isn't it???

As long as the kids are out there looking good and producing nothing (until they're sold)...the West Ham way.

It can't all be Zola's fault, as pathetic as he is...can it?

Any club or player needing a pick me up, come play West Ham. Not scored a league before, come to play West Ham and you'll break your duck. Having a bad run, come play West Ham, we'll ensure your run ends.

Bad luck only extends so far, it is criminal negligence, on behalf of the West Ham players, that we lost this game today. Not misfortune or cruel game type bathos; quite simply we didn't get the job done...again. Were we really a one man team so reliant on Ashton for goals...more and more it looks likely. Could Sears be another Neil Mellor, a flat track bully in the reserves and unable to step up and get goals in the firsts???

I watched the game live and West Ham were fairly impressive up to the time they scored their goal (as they were the previous week). Everton, who were playing for a goalless draw, had no option but to attack and it was not long before they collapsed. Once again Zola failed to act. Instead of bringing on Mullins for Sears he did nothing, allowing Everton to take control of the game.

The main problem was his starting line-up. He still continues to play Flaubert and Neill. The selection of Boa Morte over Etherington/Reid was daft and really upset the West Ham supporters. I expect he is playing these players as he hopes to get a fee for them in the transfer window. In fact, he is just lowering their value by playing them in the first-team.

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Guest Gary Loughran
Can't score and can't defend. A recipe for disaster.

But hey, as long as we look good getting bad results, that's all that matters, after all that is the West Ham way...isn't it???

As long as the kids are out there looking good and producing nothing (until they're sold)...the West Ham way.

It can't all be Zola's fault, as pathetic as he is...can it?

Any club or player needing a pick me up, come play West Ham. Not scored a league before, come to play West Ham and you'll break your duck. Having a bad run, come play West Ham, we'll ensure your run ends.

Bad luck only extends so far, it is criminal negligence, on behalf of the West Ham players, that we lost this game today. Not misfortune or cruel game type bathos; quite simply we didn't get the job done...again. Were we really a one man team so reliant on Ashton for goals...more and more it looks likely. Could Sears be another Neil Mellor, a flat track bully in the reserves and unable to step up and get goals in the firsts???

I watched the game live and West Ham were fairly impressive up to the time they scored their goal (as they were the previous week). Everton, who were playing for a goalless draw, had no option but to attack and it was not long before they collapsed. Once again Zola failed to act. Instead of bringing on Mullins for Sears he did nothing, allowing Everton to take control of the game.

The main problem was his starting line-up. He still continues to play Flaubert and Neill. The selection of Boa Morte over Etherington/Reid was daft and really upset the West Ham supporters. I expect he is playing these players as he hopes to get a fee for them in the transfer window. In fact, he is just lowering their value by playing them in the first-team.

Good post John. As can be noted, I was furious with the Everton result. Probably a bit harsh on Sears as well, who I have hopes for. We can't hold on to the points. Arsenal got 2 in the last 15 minutes, Boro scored in the last 10 and now Everton have mugged us with 3 in the last 8 minutes. A trend that indicates fear in the team.

Why Mullins wasn't introduced, or in fact, started baffled me. Again, and I'm glad many have noticed, Boa Morte is a really bad player for us. Etherington isn't much better; perhaps the youthful exuberance of Reid would be welcome on the left in future. I think he might give some energy to the role.

Neil and Faubert are a disgrace to the shirt. I'm sure they try their best, but someone has to tell them it's not good enough.

One final point, the team is missing a Captain. An onfield leader. Could a player really listen to Neil whilst, in the back of their mind, undoubtedly questioning his ability?? We really need a Captain and amazingly there doesn't seem to be one at the club!!! Noble/Upson? but both guys tend to be quiet.

I read somewhere that Zola is unhappy with Robert Green and is looking rid. No one can question the genius of Zola the footballer. Zola the manager, will hopefully be a short chapter when he writes his book.

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Good post John. As can be noted, I was furious with the Everton result. Probably a bit harsh on Sears as well, who I have hopes for. We can't hold on to the points. Arsenal got 2 in the last 15 minutes, Boro scored in the last 10 and now Everton have mugged us with 3 in the last 8 minutes. A trend that indicates fear in the team.

Why Mullins wasn't introduced, or in fact, started baffled me. Again, and I'm glad many have noticed, Boa Morte is a really bad player for us. Etherington isn't much better; perhaps the youthful exuberance of Reid would be welcome on the left in future. I think he might give some energy to the role.

Neil and Faubert are a disgrace to the shirt. I'm sure they try their best, but someone has to tell them it's not good enough.

One final point, the team is missing a Captain. An onfield leader. Could a player really listen to Neil whilst, in the back of their mind, undoubtedly questioning his ability?? We really need a Captain and amazingly there doesn't seem to be one at the club!!! Noble/Upson? but both guys tend to be quiet.

I read somewhere that Zola is unhappy with Robert Green and is looking rid. No one can question the genius of Zola the footballer. Zola the manager, will hopefully be a short chapter when he writes his book.

The report by Neil Mcleman in today's Daily Mirror makes some good points:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/mat...15875-20883272/

West Ham last week invited their most famous fan Barack Obama to cross the pond and watch another game at Upton Park.

But closer to home, the club's own inexperienced new man in the top job is not bringing the change they need.

Indeed, after initial optimism following a brave appointment, Gianfranco Zola had more in common with a shell shocked Sarah Palin after this crushing defeat.

Only two months ago the likeable Italian breezed into the East End promising to put a smile back on the face of unhappy Hammers after the unpopular reign of Alan Curbishley.

But after the canny David Moyes exposed his lack of top-flight savvy with this act of twilight robbery, the 42-year-old left the Boleyn Ground with the look of a haunted man carrying the club's problems on his shoulders.

These include no wins in six games, a lengthening injury list, a defence which has now failed to keep a clean sheet in 24 consecutive Premier League games, continued uncertainty over the club's ownership, and the threat of a £30million fine.

It all makes sorting out two wars and a global economic meltdown in the White House seem like a piece of cake.

And Zola, who said he will analyse his own contribution to this latest defeat, knows the size of the task ahead of him.

"I am more than worried," he admitted after Everton scored three goals in four minutes late in the game.

"I am disappointed and sorry because I don't think my players deserved this. I take my responsibilities and maybe I have to improve .

"I'm going to be honest with myself and if I've done something wrong I will tell the players.

"Maybe I need to change something. May be Iam not doing enough. I'm going to be reacting, that's for sure."

But react is what Zola and his assistant Steve Clarke failed to do at the end of this crazy encounter.

The Hammers dominated the first half with flowing football and did everything but score. Freddie Sears came closest with a drive which Tim Howard touched on to the bar.

The home side deservedly took the lead after 63 minutes when sub Jack Collison rounded off a fine move for his first goal for the club.

But then Moyes, appointed by Preston in 1998, showed the difference between 10 years and 10 games in the job.

The Scot took off holding midfielder Jack Rodwell and threw on striker James Vaughan to grab the initiative - and the three points.

With the momentum shifting and his players, notably the returning Scott Parker, tiring, Zola and Clarke did not try to tighten up the game.

Instead Louis Saha was given time and space to cross for Joleon Lescott's equaliser after 83 minutes before the former Manchester United star added two of his own after more defensive slackness. West Ham simply fell apart.

"I noticed that Parker was tired, but he is a very important player for this team," Zola said.

"I was thinking of taking him off, but I didn't have any signals Everton were getting on top of us. Although those 10 minutes were very costly, it's very easy to look at those 10 minutes and forget about the rest of the game."

Yet the boos at the final whistle showed the Premier League is no place for work experience. Portsmouth at home this Saturday is not to be lost.

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