West Ham board undermined Zola says Cottee

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The Independent Football

Former West Ham striker Tony Cottee believes the timing of Gianfranco Zola's dismissal was correct but criticised the club's new regime for undermining the Italian during his reign at Upton Park.

Zola was this morning sacked by the east London club after a disappointing season which saw them narrowly escape relegation from the Barclays Premier League.

Cottee is relieved Zola's future has been resolved now rather than rumbling on over the summer.

He told Sky Sports News: "I am pleased they haven't messed around and it dragged on for months.

"If they are going to do it, get it done, but the fans will judge it on the calibre of the manager coming in.

"I think Gianfranco has done a decent job in difficult circumstances.

"It hasn't been easy for him, everything that could have gone wrong at West Ham has gone wrong.

"And at the end of the season Gianfranco and the players have done well to stay up.

"But having said that the results haven't been good enough and obviously the board have now made a decision."

The arrival of new owners David Gold and David Sullivan in January saw a weakening in Zola's position with Sullivan apologising to supporters for a "shambolic" and "pathetic" performance against Wolves in March.

There have also been suggestions Zola was unaware of moves to make the entire first team squad - bar Scott Parker - available for transfer and kept in the dark over a bid for West Brom midfielder Graham Dorrans.

Cottee added: "What I would criticise them (the board) for is not sacking him when they first arrived at the club.

"It did appear right from the start that Zola was not their man.

"Various things have happened through the season that have undermined the management and the players, emails and things getting into the press. That doesn't make for a happy camp. I don't think the board handled it very well."

Cottee believes Croatia boss and former West Ham defender Slaven Bilic is the man to transform the club's fortunes.

He said: "The fans want a manager who will bring success. The right man for me is Slaven Bilic, I think he is head and shoulders above the other candidates.

"I would love to see him return to West Ham.

"He has had a great experience with Croatia but they didn't qualify for the World Cup and if West Ham could give him an escape route I think he would take it.

"He has a lot of passion for the club and still has a place in London."