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Dugout Blues: Zola’s Birmingham nightmare continues, Poyet in trouble too

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February was yet another brutal month for former Chelsea players now plying their trade as managers.

Birmingham City v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

HOPE FOR ZOLA IN BIRMINGHAM?

Gianfranco Zola is fighting for his job at Birmingham City. This is despite the month of February getting off to a great start for the Chelsea legend. On February 4th, he got his first win as Birmingham manager: a 1-0 home victory over Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham.

Zola’s men were unable to gain any kind of momentum from that win however. Six days later they were drummed 3-0 at Sheffield Wednesday. Four days after that they lost at Preston North End, a game which saw Craig Gardner dismissed on the 80th minute. Birmingham’s next game was on the 18th, at home to Queens Park Rangers, who are managed by Ian Holloway (who was hired after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink got the boot). Holloway’s team thrashed Zola’s 4-1.

Three days later, things got even worse for Zola. Angry fans attacked their manager (and Birmingham City in general) after the team posted a picture of him and his staff (including Kevin Hitchcock and Pierluigi Casiraghi) all smiles at a club do. Angry comments, per The Mirror, included “Awww that’s cute. Perhaps you could give blues fans something to smile about? You seem happy enough to take our money.”

It's been an excellent evening with Gianfranco and his staff. #KeepRightOn #BCFC

Posted by Birmingham City FC on Tuesday, February 21, 2017

With morale and fan approval at rock bottom, Birmingham took on Wolves at Molineux on the 24th. We recently saw that Wolves are no push-overs, but on this day Zola and Birmingham were able to come away with a win. The Brummies sealed a 2-1 victory even after veteran defender Paul Robinson was sent off in the 52nd minute.

Despite beginning and ending the month with wins, Zola’s team are lagging way behind the Premier League promotion chasers. They currently sit in 14th place, a whopping 17 points off of sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday. At least the team is a pretty long way from the relegation zone as well.

Though things are really bad for the Sardinia-native at the moment, he did receive some support. According to The Mirror David Davis (who scored the winner over Wolves) went public to state that he and the rest of the team are backing the embattled manager. Well that’s something, I suppose. But don’t expect that to save Zola’s job if Birmingham lose the majority of their games in March.

Gustavo Poyet, Gianfranco Zola and Pierluigi Casiraghi

ELSEWHERE

Zola and Casiraghi’s old teammate Gustavo Poyet is feeling pressure at Shanghai Shenhua after just one game in charge! That’s according to The Sun, who reported that fans were chanting for Poyet’s removal during the Uruguayan’s debut match this month. It may sound a little silly for fans to be on his back so soon, but the game in question was a big one. It was a winner-takes-all play-off match versus Brisbane Roar of Australia for a place in this year’s Asia Champions League.

Shenhua, who were playing at home, lost 2-0 despite Obafemi Martins and the obscenely highly paid Carlos Tevez playing the entire match. Poyet’s club will thus not be playing in Asia’s premier continental competition this season. With expectations high, the former Sunderland, Real Betis, and AEK Athens manager will be under pressure to perform well in the approaching Chinese Super League season. Shenhua’s first league game is against Jiangsu Suning (home to Ramires and Alex Teixeira).

Dan Petrescu managed Suning last year. Right now, after being fired by the Chinese club and walking away from Kuban Krasnodar, he is in charge of Al Nasr in Dubai. On February 3rd, they lost away to Al Ain, but followed that up with a home win over Al Wahda. On the 17th they drew 0-0 with Dibba Al Fujairah away. Petrescu’s club is currently 6th in the 14-team Arabian Gulf League. They are 14 points off of the all-important Asia Champions League play-off places.

Things are still going great for David Hopkin in Scotland. His Livingston FC are now 9 points clear at the top of League One. They also have a game in hand. February saw Livi draw with both Alloa and Stranraer before pounding Airdrieonian 4-0 away.

Life is good for Slavisa Jokanovic too. He has Fulham just five points away from the Championship’s play-off positions. After giving Zola his first win at Birmingham on the 4th of February, the Cottagers beat Wigan and Forest away from home (both by a score of 3-2). February also saw them beat Bristol City 2-0 and Burton Albion 1-0. Their only other dropped points this month came in a 2-2 draw with Cardiff in Wales. On February 19th Slav’s men also lost 3-0 to Spurs (boo) in the FA Cup. Fulham’s flying February was enough to earn Jokanovic a new two-year contract at the club (like those matter though...).

In England’s lower leagues you’ll find another three managers having a tough time of things. Hayes & Yeading, who are managed by Paul Hughes and Ritchie Hanlon, are second from bottom in the Southern Premier League. They got a win over Redditch this month, but were beaten by Kings Lynn and Basingstoke. They are currently six points from safety. A league under them, in the Spartan South Midlands League’s Premier Division, Mickey Hazard and Hadley FC are also second from bottom. They lost to Tring Athletic and Colney Heath this month, though they did get revenge on Colney Heath nine days later.

In Ireland there’s good news for a former Chelsea winger. Damien Duff was given a promotion at Shamrock Rovers, who Duff supported as a boy. The former Ireland international began coaching young players at the club last year, but, as per The Mirror, on February 21st it was announced that Duff had been promoted to manager of the under-15s.

And that wasn’t the only appointment of a former Blue this month. The Mirror also reported that ex-Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka had joined Eredivisie team Roda JC in a ‘consultancy role.’ Anelka’s last role in football was as player-manager of Mumbai City in the Indian Super League for the 2015 season.

RUMOUR ROUND-UP

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is still without a club, largely by choice. The Dutchman apparently turned down jobs at Coventry and Charlton in January. This month his name was mentioned as a candidate for Blackburn Rovers, who sacked Owen Coyle for leading them into the Championship relegation zone. However, Tony Mowbray would end up getting the job on February 22nd.

Roberto Di Matteo, fresh off an embarrassing spell as Aston Villa manager has also been in the news lately. He was among the list bookies were offering as managers likely to take over at Glasgow Rangers after Mark Warburton resigned on February 10th. Barry Ferguson is currently the favourite to land the role after he resigned from Clyde.

This month a new name surfaced as a possible Dugout Blue. Chelsea icon Marcel Desailly is, according to multiple outlets, the favourite to manage the Ghana national side after Avram Grant stepped down. Though he won a World Cup with France, the former Chelsea captain was born in Accra, Ghana. Desailly has never managed a team; his last gig in football was playing for Qatar SC in 2006.

VIDEO OF THE MONTH

With Marcel Desailly in the news I think it’s appropriate that we salute him and his seven goals for Chelsea. Check out the finish on his first! Video comes from LP&CFC on YouTube.