CHRIS DUNLAVY

Why new Birm­ing­ham boss Zola is no longer foot­ball’s Mr Nice Guy

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE -

NICEST man in foot­ball? Not any­more. Gian­franco Zola may have promised to give Gary Rowett a call, but it won’t change per­cep­tions that he shafted his pre­de­ces­sor.

Just six hours elapsed be­tween Rowett’s shock dis­missal and Zola’s un­veil­ing as Birm­ing­ham City’s new man­ager.

“I feel for Gary but you have to be pro­fes­sional,” said the Ital­ian. “I know how it feels to be in that si­t­u­a­tion, but I didn’t blame the man who came af­ter me.”

In truth, arch-prag­ma­tist Rowett will likely har­bour sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments.

Tril­lion Tro­phy Asia, the club’s new Chi­nese own­ers, are the true vil­lains of the piece, hav­ing ini­tially spo­ken to Zola sev­eral weeks ago.

Yet it is sad sign of the times that Zola, known for his de­cency and in­tegrity, has been forced to stoop so low.

This is a man who, hav­ing promised to join home-town club Cagliari af­ter seven years at Chelsea, spurned the Ro­man Abramovich mil­lions to keep his word.

Who once said his great­est sat­is­fac­tion was not the medals and caps won but “the way peo­ple re­spect me”.

Who only last year said: “I wouldn’t com­pro­mise my own per­son­al­ity for a job.”

It must have hurt him deeply to de­fend him­self against ac­cu­sa­tions of back-stab­bing, but what choice did he have?

The Ital­ian’s rep­u­ta­tion may un­doubt­edly be dam­aged, but he is merely a nice man fight­ing for life in a very nasty in­dus­try.

RE­SPECTED: Zola

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