Zola draws line under owner row

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The Independent Online

Gianfranco Zola insists his players were not sending a defiant message to the club's new co-owners as they mobbed the Italian coach during their 2-0 win over Birmingham.

Zola was buried under goalscorer Alessandro Diamanti and handful of his team-mates as they celebrated West Ham's opening goal in first-half injury time.

But Zola was anxious to draw a line under his spat with new co-owner David Sullivan and while he "appreciated" the gesture, the Italian was adamant there was nothing sinister in it.

Diamanti's superb 20-yard free-kick and Carlton Cole's diving header in the second-half, lifted West Ham to 14th place in the Barclays Premier League.

But the build-up to the game had all been about Sullivan's public outburst that the club's high wage bill required slashing.

Zola was unhappy that Sullivan had spoken to the media and questioned the timing of his statement in the build-up to the City game.

Sullivan, who now controls the club with co-owner David Gold, was forced to declare that Zola's job was safe yesterday.

West Ham duly notched their first win under the new regime, a result made all the more sweeter by the fact it was against the club Sullivan and Gold used to own, but Zola was keen to play down Diamanti's public display of affection.

"It was just a celebration because we are going through a difficult moment and we want to stick together, there was no other message than we are together - the players and the staff," insisted Zola.

"We want the team to succeed. We are in a position we don't like and want to improve it and that's the way I took it.

"We care about this club and want to be successful. It was a good gesture and I appreciated it.

"It means we are all going in the same direction and it is vital to do well.

"The important thing is that we won the game. It is important we win games and win well and that we are a unit. That is the most important message we send to everybody.

"It is the end of the story. I am motivated and driven to do well for this team and that is the most important thing."

Meanwhile, Birmingham boss Alex McLeish says his side will bounce back from the setback against Derby in the FA Cup fifth round at the weekend.

"The lads have done that time and time again and the challenge now is for them to do it again," said McLeish.

"We have an FA Cup tie against Derby at the weekend and the carrot is for the players to show they can bounce back but they know they can do that."

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