What does support for a manager really mean?
The latest player to back Zola is Robert Green that dubs Zola “a great manager” and the other day Mido told the press that "Everyone is working so hard for the manager. We're behind that man. He is a top manager, in my opinion, and we're all behind him". Just the other week two or three other players including Scott Parker said more or less the same thing.
But what does “a great manager” mean to a footballer.
I’m pretty sure that if players outside West Ham are asked to name a great manager Fergie, Wenger and Mourinho would all be named but Zola wouldn’t even enter their mind. So why do our players say he’s a great manager? These are players working with him every day so they should know, right?
First one must consider if they are just lying as this is the politically correct way of behaving. No one wants to look like a managerial problem so on the direct question “what do you think of Zola as a manager” they don’t have much of a choice do they? But I’m sure that some players actually do think he is a good manager. How come?
Of course the he players can like a manager for several reasons. He can be a good “man manager” making the players feel comfortable and wanted. How can you dislike that? He can avoid the hair-dryer treatment, which is most certainly appreciated by players in the short run. Also he can be accessible to the players, being there for them when they want him, which is probably a totally new feeling for players used to old-school Curboid managers. I think Zola have all these “qualities”. Zola is also apparently very good one-on-one with the players giving each player “quality” time with the manager working on (what he/they think is) their individual needs. There are a so many statements confirming this that we (almost) have to accept it as the truth. It also appears as if the training sessions are enjoyable to the players.
So the players lead a good and enjoyable life with Zola as their manager. The fact that they don’t win games with him at the helm is just a minor flaw in his managerial CV.
But the players are not the only ones backing him, almost every manager of teams we have played of late has backed Zola as well. Now, that is a League Managers Association kind of thing as they know that they could be up next and they all by default despise the sacking of any manager.
Old West Ham players also seem to get behind Zola with Julian Dicks, Don Hutchison, Ian Bishop, Tony Gale and John Moncur among those having given him their support. Some of that is maybe due to genuine support for him as a manager and some of it can reflect that they don’t want change during a season. But I bet some is also that they want to be regular nice guys not wanting to stab his back and the statement have no real relation to what they actually think of him as a manager. I’m sure pretty much the same persons will back the next manager too.
So what do we do with all this backing of Zola?
Nothing. I think their greatest value is as a post-topic, at best.