Gianfranco Zola's inability to see eye to eye with his employers took a new twist when the Italian yesterday effectively branded West Ham United's official complaint that Fulham fielded a weakened team against a relegation rival a complete waste of time.
The ever-honest Zola even went as far as siding with Roy Hodgson, the man West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold are convinced broke Premier League rules by resting five players at Hull City seven days ago so they would be fresh for the Europa League later in the week.
Hodgson left out Bobby Zamora, Danny Murphy, Aaron Hughes, Damien Duff and Dickson Etuhu at third-bottom Hull, who won 2-0 to move level on points with West Ham.
The Premier League has confirmed it has received a complaint about a decision Hodgson argued was perfectly within his rights, especially as the players who came in were all internationals.
Zola yesterday gave him his backing. "I have no doubts that Roy Hodgson was doing the best for his team," he said. "He's a person I respect for his loyalty and I have no complaints with that. He decided to do that and I'm sure he has done what is right for the club. Plus, from what I read in the reports, Fulham weren't that bad, so I have no problems."
Hodgson insisted on Thursday night that he had done nothing wrong. "Firstly I don't think West Ham should be picking our team and I think that is a fairly obvious statement," he said. "If there is a complaint my conscience is perfectly clear on the subject and as far as I'm concerned we don't have a case to answer."
Zola already has a strained relationship with the club's new owners, and Sullivan in particular. Sullivan publicly criticised Zola and his players before the 1-0 home defeat by Stoke City last weekend – their sixth straight loss – and the Italian was on the brink of quitting on Sunday.
A return to his native Sardinia convinced him to stay on, until the end of the season at least, and Zola will be in the away dugout at Everton tomorrow.
"I don't like to leave things that are unfinished," he explained. "I believe that here there is still something to be done and I can play a big part in it. I never wanted to leave. The Sunday was really tough for me because the players were so down. It was very emotional but it didn't last long. Sardinia can do miracles. I relaxed and ate – a lot. It was one of my toughest days but I have had worse, trust me."