Date: 15th March 2017 at 1:27pm
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He was on a hiding to nothing from day one. Replacing a popular figure was always going to be a tough ask for Gianfranco Zola. His remit was to lead Birmingham City into the play-offs while introducing an attractive style of play. He had to hit the ground running which, in hindsight, was an impossible task given the squad he inherited and the circumstances he had to overcome.

In their infancy, Blues` days under Zola started with a handful of promising performances. The Brighton game, Zola`s first in charge, was a bright display. At the time, it was a refreshing change to what we`d witnessed before and offered us promise that this was a sign of things to come. The Italian had only been in the hot seat for three days but the transformation seemed quick to embed.

Since then, performances have been somewhere between fanciful and abhorrent. But even the better performances have not been effective and have produced very little by way of points.

In short, Zola`s reign has been torrid. It`s been difficult for the man who was once lauded as one of the greatest players this country has ever seen and difficult for the ardent Bluenoses who turn up week in week out to watch their team through gritted teeth. The decline in results and, more recently, the performances, have put Blues in grave danger of the drop to League One.

When the Italian was first appointed in place on Gary Rowett, many media personalities predicted it was going to go this way. Now it is a case of ‘I told you so` from smug writers quick to give their pennies worth.

It`s hard not to feel for Zola. From the moment of his unveiling – a press conference in which he sat alone in front of the cameras – it was easy to tell that he was solely going to have to take the flack if things went pear shaped. The board have come out and offered him support by way of a statement via the official website, but that is scant consolation for a man who is quite clearly hurting. In fairness to him, he handles his media duties with respect and faces up to the challenges the lie ahead, but football is a results business and on that front, he is drastically failing.

Just what the future holds for Zola is unclear. Indeed, what the near future holds for Birmingham City isn`t crystal. It appears that the board of the club are waiting in the wings ready to pounce in the wake of Zola`s next defeat. That shows mistrust in their manager which is unhealthy for all parties concerned.

A very likeable, charming man, if Zola can limp towards the summer as Blues boss, he is likely to have dodged many bullets fired his way. It would come as no surprise, though, to see a new manager conducting the summer transfer window business. And it wouldn`t fill me with bewilderment to see a new manager taking charge of the final games of this campaign – which could have a massive say in which division Blues operate in next season.

It was a project that offered hope but the odds of it working were stacked measurably against. It is also a project that has not worked.

 
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