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Watford head coach Gianfranco Zola is anticipating an 'interesting challenge' with the Hornets
Gianfranco Zola accepts he has a lot to learn about Championship football following his appointment as Watford head coach and has asked for the supporters’ patience.
Zola spent the majority of his career at the top level; he played for his country 35 times and won the UEFA Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup, Serie A and FA Cup during his distinguished career.
He was voted the greatest player in Chelsea’s history and is widely regarded as one of the most gifted talents of his generation.
But he has never played or managed in English football’s second tier and admits he needs to learn fast in the unforgiving Championship.
Zola said: “There will be tough games for sure, no doubt about that, but I am not afraid.
“I left the Champions League to play in Serie B in Italy and I never regretted it. It made me better and I will take the challenge this time as well.
“I will obviously need to learn a lot but I am very confident in my qualities and the qualities of the people around me and we will learn.
“It will be tough playing in places like that (Barnsley away) but we will find a way.”
This is Zola’s second job in management after a two-year spell at West Ham United.
His first season in East London was a successful one, as his side finished ninth in the Premier League, but the Hammers only survived relegation by five points the following year and Zola was sacked by the club’s new owners in 2010.
“I have had two years to think about things and this is a new challenge, and it is a very interesting challenge,” Zola said.
“The West Ham job was very testing as you could imagine and I certainly had a lot of challenges, but that is okay.
“I always keep in mind what they say over here – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – and hopefully this time it will be much better.
“Without going into details, I had a lot of experiences and I will use that to improve.”
When asked whether he has things to prove as a manager following his time at Upton Park, Zola replied: “Of course. If I didn’t have anything to prove then I wouldn’t be here.
“There is always something to prove in football and, as far as I am concerned, I always look for a challenge and the day you think you have proven everything is the day you should pack up and go to the beach. I have done that for the last two years,” he added with a smile.
Zola’s appointment as head coach comes after the Pozzos’ takeover was completed last month.
Watford are expected to make several signings this summer and Zola has asked the supporters to be patient.
The Pozzos have stated their goal is to make the club an established Premier League side but this is seen as a long-term objective.
Zola said: “We want to do as well as we can but it is too early to set a target such as the play-offs. The team is still adapting and there will be players coming in and it will depend on many things.
“It is important the supporters understand that they have to be patient. The project is long term so today we are just making the base so we can do a good job in the future.
“We will evaluate the situation later on when the team is settled and we all know each other better.”
Zola was one of the greatest attacking players in Premier League history and he attempted to play attractive football during his time at West Ham.
The 46-year-old recognises it will be difficult to implement his style of football but claims he will not compromise when it comes to his philosophy.
“It is not going to be easy, that is for sure, especially considering the Championship, but I don’t compromise because that is the only style of football I know in my heart,” he explained.
He may have spent most of his career at the top level, but Zola appreciates supporters and is aware of Watford’s importance in the local community.
He said: “I like the community aspect of the club. I have always believed that football is not just about results or business. The relationship with the fans is crucial.
“I know this club looks after the community very well and we will try to carry that on.”
Watford’s first pre-season game is at Boreham Wood on Tuesday night, kick-off 7.30pm, and their first competitive fixture is in less than a month.
Zola’s preparation has been hindered by the delay in Watford’s takeover and the Italian claims it wasn’t until last weekend that he was certain he would be appointed.
“There were some hints but I wasn’t sure it was going to happen to be honest. I had the certainty once it was completed,” he said. “Until then I had other opportunities I was evaluating but at the end of the day, I decided to come over here.
“Coming in so close to the beginning of the season is not easy I can assure you – I have already had two or three paracetamols today,” he joked.
“But unfortunately the takeover was delayed and we have to make the most of our time.
“We are certainly not ready and we are trying to get everything organised in a few days, which isn’t easy, but we are doing the best we can,” he added.