Friday 23 August 2019

Gianfranco Zola takes over at Birmingham City just hours after club sacks Gary Rowett

GENOA, ITALY - MARCH 07: Cagliari Calcio head coach Gianfranco Zola looks on during the Serie A match between UC Sampdoria and Cagliari Calcio at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on March 7, 2015 in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
GENOA, ITALY - MARCH 07: Cagliari Calcio head coach Gianfranco Zola looks on during the Serie A match between UC Sampdoria and Cagliari Calcio at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on March 7, 2015 in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Jack de Menezes

Former Chelsea player Gianfranco Zola has been unveiled as the new Birmingham City manager, just hours after Gary Rowett was sacked from his position at the club.

Pierluigi Casiraghi and Gabriele Cioffi join Zola as first team coaches, while Kevin Hitchcock has been brought in as goalkeeper coach.

Club Director Panos Pavlakis said: "We are delighted to welcome Gianfranco and his backroom team to the Club.

"His pedigree, philosophy and ambition fits with what we would like to achieve as we move in a new direction.

"Gianfranco has a wealth of top-level experience as both manager and player and we are extremely excited about his appointment."

Rowett's dismissal came as a shock for fans after the side recorded a 2-1 victory over Ipswich Town on Tuesday evening to move up to seventh in the Championship table.

A statement on the club’s official website confirmed that Rowett’s contract had been terminated with immediate effect, along with his coaching staff.

“Gary’s contract, and those of his backroom staff – Kevin Summerfield, Mark Sale, Kevin Poole and Darren Robinson – have been terminated with immediate effect,” the statement read.

“This has not been an easy decision to make.”

The club attempted to appease angry fans – who vented their immediate fury at the decision through social media with a string of expletive-laden and mocking responses on Twitter – by insisting that they have made the decision in an attempt to take the club forwards.

“Supporters can rest assured that the decision has been taken with a strategic, long-term view and with the Club’s best interests at heart,” the statement continued.

“An immediate replacement will be sought in order to afford the new manager the time to assess where the existing playing squad needs strengthening. The Board recognises the urgency required given that the transfer window will open at the start of January and funds have been made available.”

The win over Ipswich came after two heavy defeats by Championship promotion favourites Newcastle United and mid-table side Barnsley, but given that the Blues are currently level on points with sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday, the move comes as a complete surprise to many.

The decision is particularly harsh on the former defender given that he took over the club in October 2014 at their lowest point, with the Blues one place above the Championship relegation zone and guided them to an impressive 10th-place finish.

Rowett consolidated their turnaround by finishing the 2015/16 campaign in the same position, but he has lasted just four months into this season before club owners Trillion Trophy Asia Limited wielded the axe.

Club director Panos Pavlakis said in a statement on Wednesday: “Such a parting of the ways is always difficult, particularly so on a personal level as I have worked very closely with Gary and have got to know him well. Our relationship was very strong but in football you can never stand still.

"I would ask that our supporters trust our judgement and look forward to and embrace the future as we begin to implement the exciting vision of TTAL.”

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