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Dugout Blues: Zola resigns from Birmingham; Jokanovic pushing on with Fulham

Another Dugout Blue is out of a job. Elsewhere, two ex-Chelsea players turned managers want to lure John Terry to their clubs.

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Birmingham City v Burton Albion - Sky Bet Championship

Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images


After just four months in charge, Chelsea icon Gianfranco Zola resigned as manager of Birmingham City F.C. on April 17th. The Sardinian had won only two out of 22 games in the Sky Bet Championship.

“I sacked myself,” said Zola, according to Telegraph Sport. “It is not that I like quitting, but Birmingham deserve better. If I feel I cannot help the players, why stay? If I cannot help the team, it is better I leave and let someone else do that.”

Zola’s last game in charge of Birmingham was a 2-0 home defeat to Burton Albion. Prior to that Birmingham drew 1-1 with Rotherham away, lost at home to Derby (2-1), lost away to Brighton (2-1) and drew with Ipswich away (1-1). Birmingham’s first game in the post-Zola era was a humiliating 1-0 loss to hated rivals Aston Villa at Villa Park. On April 29th the Brummies won their first game since February 24th, beating high flying Huddersfield 2-0 at home. Birmingham’s woeful April has left them 20th in the table, just two points clear of the relegation zone with two games left. They need to do better than both Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers to ensure they play in England’s second tier next season.

Zola’s final record at Birmingham stands at 24 total games played, two wins, eight draws, and 14 losses. This translates to a dreadful 8.33 per cent win-ratio. It has - by far - been Zola’s most disastrous spell in charge of a team. Prior to landing back in England, Zola lead Al-Arabi for a season in the United Arab Emirates. Zola’s other past clubs include Cagliari, Watford, and West Ham.

With Zola deciding to ‘sack himself’ at Birmingham, we’re left to wonder whether the former mini-dynamo has any desire left to manage. There must also be questions as to whether Zola is a skilled enough tactician to hold a job at the head of the bench. Based on his nine years of sub-par results in the upper tiers of England, it seems likely that if Zola ever returns to the dugout, he may be forced to do it at a much lower level. Either way, don’t expect to see this legend on a touchline anytime soon.

Gustavo Poyet and John Terry
Will John Terry and Gus Poyet put their heads together in the Chinese Super League?


One of Zola’s old teammates, John Terry - who has cited Zola an early mentor in his footballing career - may be done at Chelsea F.C. but he might not be done as a player altogether. Two Dugout Blues went on the record this month saying they would love to have the Chelsea talisman playing on their team.

Dan Petrescu was the first manager to make such an announcement. The Sun has him offering a potential “mega-bucks” deal to Terry in exchange for his services at Al Nasr in the UAE Arabian Gulf League. Dueling Petrescu for Terry’s signature is Gus Poyet, who MailOnline reports as saying “China is a great opportunity for [Terry].” Poyet is at the helm of Shanghai Shenhua, home to Carlos Tevez, Obafemi Martins, and Fredy Guarin.

Petrescu’s Al Nasr had a decent April, picking up wins over Ittihad Kalba (2-1) in the league and Hatta (1-0) in the semi-finals of the President’s Cup. In their other league games this month they drew at home to Bani Yas and lost on the road to Hatta. With two games left in the season Al Nasr are sixth placed in the 14 team league with no chance of qualifying for continental competition. Petrescu’s shot at silverware this season will come on May 18th, when Al Nasr play Al Wahda in the final of the President’s Cup.

After a rocky start to the season Poyet’s Shanghai Shenua found some good form, winning their last two games in April. On the 22nd they beat Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng 2-0 and on the 15th they beat Changchun Yatai 3-2, both away from home. Prior to that they suffered a crushing 4-2 defeat away at Manuel Pellegrini’s Hebei and a 2-1 loss at Beijing Guoan. Those results left Poyet’s men 7th in the 16-team Chinese Super League.

Back in England Slavisa Jokanovic is proving to be a talented manager in the Sky Bet Championship. After drawing 1-1 with Brentford on April 30th, Slav’s Fulham are pretty much confirmed to be competing in the play-offs for a shot at Premier League promotion (alongside Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday, and Reading). Fulham got to sixth place in the table thanks to their incredible run through April. They won five of seven games, losing just to Derby away (4-2) during that run. Their wins came over Huddersfield, Norwich, Aston Villa, Ipswich, and Rotherham.

But David Hopkin makes Jokanovic’s run look like nothing. His Livingston FC side has won eight straight games. And they’ve only lost once in their last 16 league games in Scotland’s League One. Livi lead the league most of the year and were confirmed champions last week, ensuring a quick return to the Scottish Championship (they were relegated last season).

It’s a completely different story for Ritchie Hanlon and Paul Hughes at Hayes & Yeading. Despite finally winning some games in April, their team was relegated after finishing 23rd in the Southern Premier League. It’s unclear whether Hanlon and Hughes have retained their roles as joint-managers of the club since their relegation became official. Hanlon and Hughes joined Hayes & Yeading late last year, after they stepped down from managing Kings Langley. The Kings finished in 20th place and avoided relegation on goal difference.

One league below, in the Spartan South Midlands Premier League, Micky Hazard’s Hadley FC narrowly avoided a similar fate to Hayes & Yeading. A 3-1 win over Welwyn Garden City on April 22nd saved their skins and ensured they finished 19th, one point ahead of St. Margaretsbury, who were sent down along with London Tigers and Broxbourne Borough.


David Hopkin was almost joined in Scotland by another former blue turned manager. The Daily Star reported that former Chelsea fullback Albert Ferrer was in the running for the Motherwell manager job in the Scottish Premiership. Ferrer played for Chelsea between 1998 and 2003. He joined us from his hometown club Barcelona, for whom he played over 200 times. As a manager Ferrer led Vitesse Arnhem between 2010 and 2011 and had short spells with Spanish outfits Cordoba and Mallorca. The Motherwell job would eventually go to interim manager Steve Robinson.


Got to be Zola, right? His failings as a manager, thus far, can’t take anything away from the magic the diminutive Italian produced while wearing 25 for Chelsea. Here’s a highlight package to remind us all of the good times, thanks to YouTube channel THE GOLD Success TV Channel.

Did I miss anything? Let me know @timothybissell

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