Gianfranco Zola struggling to cope with a world of woes at stricken West Ham
The stresses of management sit heavy with the Italian, one of football's most likeable characters. His face lights up when he talks about coaching players on the training ground, but there are also those signs of anxiety befitting the manager of a club in financial crisis, about to be taken over and in a relegation battle. Zola has always been a fine example of a rags-to-riches footballer, never forgetting his humble beginnings, putting family first, even learning to play the piano when he first joined Chelsea a decade ago. Related ArticlesAston Villa v West Ham United: previewFernandes and Sullivan battle for West HamWest Ham saga nears endWest Ham takeover contendersTransfer TalkSport on televisionBut he has little time for music now, so obsessed is he with trying to find ways to lift West Ham away from the relegation zone. Since taking over from Alan Curbishley 16 months ago, Zola has spent more time than he would have liked dealing with the club's problems. This week, for example, attention has been on takeover talks that should reach a conclusion in the next few days, the club's fine for failing to control their fans and transfer speculation surrounding his best players. Meanwhile, he has been trying to pass on his expertise as a forward to the youngsters being asked to do men's jobs. Aside from the fit-again Alessandro Diamanti, teenager Frank Nouble and Freddie Sears, 20, are his only striking options at Aston Villa and the veteran has been trying to show them the more subtle arts of attacking play, the movement and trickery that made him a superstar. 'I have been satisfied with what Frank has done,' said Zola. 'He has not got experience but he has energy, enthusiasm and he wants to impress me. That is more than enough. He has good qualities and needs to learn the art of being a good striker. 'He has a great physique and good technical abilities. He needs to learn the movements but he is on his way. I think in the last few weeks he has improved so much.' It is what Zola enjoys. 'I work with the players all the time and on a one-on-one situation. That is what I like doing. It is the best part of my job.' The training ground gives him a respite from his worries, but it is not so easy when he goes home. 'That was difficult for me at the start. When I was a player I used to dedicate myself to football but when I went home I somehow managed to switch off. 'This job is a little more difficult because you are talking to your son and are thinking 'maybe Frank Nouble should have moved into that position'. You need to learn to switch your mind off. I have no chance of doing it now. I love music and playing the piano but I have no time for it.' He admits to moments of self-doubt, and fleetingly considered walking away: 'Obviously when you have difficult moments you think about that but then you say, 'I love what I'm doing'. "I was born to play football and I have knowledge about football. And one of my biggest satisfactions is if I can transfer that to a young player and make a difference. That is what I love. My duty is to entertain people. It was my duty as a player and now it is to teach other people to entertain.' Zola has overcome adversity throughout his career, and is aware that a manager's lot is more demanding than ever. 'The interests around football are bigger and that gives less time to managers. Either you get it right straight away or you are in trouble. But I think I can do this job well. 'I knew when I took this job that it could go wrong and they could fire me. I accepted that so there is no fear for me.' How he would love the time and stability afforded Villa's manager Martin O'Neill, who has expertly passed on his craft and craftiness to a generation of exciting young players. If whoever tuns out to be West Ham's new owners give him the platform, perhaps he can show that he is the right man in the right job.
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