The final Vital Interviewee this season is the main man, Hornet’s Head Coach, Gianfranco Zola
GIANFRANCO Zola is undoubtedly one of the finest talents of his generation. As a player, the 46 year-old won 11 trophies with the likes Napoli, Parma and Chelsea, as well as scooping 10 individual awards.
Having spent seven successful years in this country at Stamford Bridge, the Sardinian understandably holds the Blues close to his heart.
‘I can tell you how I felt. I felt great and I was fortunate to come to Chelsea and to this country and I really enjoyed my football, from day one until the end.
‘I have to say it was fortunate for me because I went there when I was 30 I think and I was supposed for two or three years and I ended up playing until I was 39. That was because it is fine, perfect conditions over here. I enjoyed my football and I really had a good time.’
Such was the level of admiration for their diminutive Italian forward, in 2005 Chelsea supporters voted Zola into the club’s best XI of the century and voted the Oliena-born wizard their greatest ever player.
‘That is a dream [to be idolised by a club’s supporters]. As a footballer obviously when you start playing, especially when you are young, you dream that one day you will be an important player for a club and that is exactly what happened to me,’ explains Zola.
Retiring in 2005, aged 39, Zola was out of the game for just a year before taking up a role assisting former Blues’ teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi as Italy Under-21 manager.
The management bug had clearly bitten Zola and in 2008 he took up his first post as the main man, replacing Alan Curbishly at West Ham.
It was a hard two years at the Boleyn Ground, with the club operating under tighter financial control. Zola kept the Irons in the Premier League for two years before Avram Grant took the club down the following season.
As Zola explains, the two years in charge of the east Londoners proved invaluable.
‘Well of course, two years in the Premiership, they taught me a lot; especially in the tough conditions [at West Ham].
‘I certainly took a lot from that experience and I believe that in the new one here at Watford I was much more prepared.’
That preparation has helped propel Zola and his side to within 90 minutes of Wembley this Sunday as the Hornets look to win promotion on their first ride of the Zola-coaster.
REMEMBER! This is just an extract. The full Vital Interview – extended this week only – will be available in Sunday’s matchday programme for the play-off semi-final clash with Leicester City.