ZOLA TO HULL?
Hull City have begun the 2016-17 Premier League season in turmoil. Since the Tigers clinched promotion in the Championship play-off finals back in May, the club has seen a fan uprising against owner Assem Allam (who took over the team in 2010) and Steve Bruce stepped down as manager in July. Though Bruce did not explicitly state that he was leaving due to issues with the club’s board, fans and media agree this was likely the reason. Mike Phelan was promoted from assistant manager to interim manager. Throughout the Tigers’ pre-season, supporter frustration has been boiling. Among the Hull City faithful’s complaints are that the team is yet to clarify whether Phelan is the man for the job, or whether one of the many managers targeted will take the hot seat. Fans are also dismayed at the lack of new signings, especially with so many key players going down with injury.
One man who is rumoured to be on Allam’s shortlist for manager is Chelsea icon Gianfranco Zola. Zola was fired by Al Arabi in Qatar a few months ago and according to Sky Sports News the Sardinian coach (and award winning gelato dispenser) was approached by Hull on August 1st. Speculation linking Zola to the post curiously died down after this, as rumours that Phelan might be getting the gig full-time began to intensify. Wales head honcho Chris Coleman is also linked to the position. Despite those rumours, at this time of writing, it still appears as though Zola has a good shot at the job.
Despite being someone who worships the ground Zola walks on (as do all Chelsea fans who remember him making an absolute mug out of Jamie Carragher), I can’t help feeling cynical as to why a premier league side would be interested in his services, at this time. Zola’s last campaign in Qatar was mediocre at best. It’s understandable that an embattled chairman would be attracted to a ‘big name’ that conjures up images of exciting and expressive football, but it’s hard to imagine Zola being able to do much with a newly promoted team that has not improved its squad one iota since last season. If Zola gets the job, and Hull predictably struggle, look for him to be the scapegoat.
Whereas Zola might be on the verge of a new job, in Russia Dan Petrescu is very close to losing his. Kuban Krasnodar are currently bottom of the Russian First Division (that country’s second tier competition). Petrescu’s team is winless after 7 league games played and they have scored just 3 goals. On August 6th Kuban lost 2-0, at home, to fellow early strugglers SKA Khabarovsk. On the 13th the team suffered their worst loss yet, falling 4-1 away at FK Chimki Moskovska oblast. Leading Romanian outlet Liber Tatea reports that Pretescu is on “the brink of dismissal.” Petrescu was hired at Kuban in June after being fired by Jiangsu Suning a month earlier.
How about some good news? Though it’s incredibly early days Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is top of the league. After two impressive victories Hasselbaink’s Queens Park Rangers are first place in the Championship. In QPR’s season opener on August 7th they hammered Leeds 3-0 at Loftus Park and on the 14th they defeated Cardiff 2-0 away. QPR also beat Swindon in the first round of the League Cup, after a penalty shootout. Jimmy Floyd’s not the only former blue with a team off to a hot start. Across town Slavisa Jokanovic’s 4th placed Fulham are also perfect after two league games played. In their season opener they beat Newcastle United 1-0 at home and on the 13th they edged Preston 2-1 away. The Cottagers also progressed into the next round of the League Cup thanks to a 3-2 victory over Leyton Orient on the 9th.
Also in the Championship, Roberto Di Matteo and Aston Villa sit in 11th place after an opening day 1-0 loss away to Sheffield Wednesday and then an impressive 3-0 win over Rotherham at home on the 13th. RDM’s men suffered a surprise defeat in the League Cup. On the 10th they went down 3-1 versus League Two Luton. The past two weeks have also seen Di Matteo bolster his side with the £8m signing of West Brom’s James Chester and the shock raid for Fulham striker Ross McCormack, who they bought for £14m just as it seemed Norwich City had won his signature.
Kevin Wilson and Nuneaton Town are also back to playing meaningful football. After a disappointing 3-2 loss to Halifax on August 6th, Wilson’s club snagged a late draw versus Bradford PA on the 13th. Nuneaton’s single point is good for 18th in the Vanarama National League North.
In the amateur leagues Mickey Hazard and Hadley FC made it out of the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round after beating Brantham Athletic 1-0 on August 6th. That win earned them an away trip to Hertford Town. Should Hadley beat Hertford, they would enter the First Round Qualifying phase. Should they win that game, they would enter the FA Cup First Round - which includes teams from League One and Two. On August 9th Hadley began their Spartan South Midlands Football League (Premier Division) campaign with a 2-0 loss away to Biggleswade United.
After crashing out of the Betfred Cup last month, Livingston United - led by David Hopkin - began their Scottish League One campaign on August 6th. At home to Stranraer, Livi finally gave their fans something to shout about, as they rode out 5-1 winners. On the 13th Livingston beat Airdrieonians 4-2 away. The emphatic victories put Livingston into second place in the league, behind Alloa (who also put 5 goals past Stranraer).
Serie B’s kick-off is just two weeks away, but Christian Panucci won’t be leading Ternana Calcio into the fray. After just a couple of weeks after hiring him Ternana has fired the former defender following an alleged bust-up with club president Edoardo Longarini. Before he was sacked Panucci oversaw Ternana’s brief Coppa Italia campaign. In the first round the team beat Pordenone, but in the second round they were eliminated by Cesana.
In Spain Gus Poyet is still playing friendlies. In the last two weeks his Betis side beat Sporting Lisbon, lost to Montpellier, Cordoba, and Recreativo Huelva, and drew to RB Leipzig.
File Damien Duff’s name under one to keep our eye on. On August 1st, it was announced that the former Chelsea winger had signed on as a coach with Dublin-side Shamrock Rovers. The 37-year-old won 100 caps for Ireland and played for Chelsea between 2003 and 2006, appearing over 100 times and scoring close to 20 goals. Duff briefly played for Shamrock Rovers in 2015. Rovers are currently 4th in the League of Ireland’s Premier Division, after 20 games played.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
To celebrate Damien Duff’s new coaching gig, let’s watch some of his signature mazy runs (courtesy of YouTuber Just the Goals). Duff’s speed, dribbling, and opportune finishing helped define the first generation of Roman Abramovic’s Chelsea. Here’s hoping he earns valuable experience at Shamrock Rovers, and makes it to gaffer’s chair in the near future.