Early Doors

General Franco

Early Doors

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Few things in football are as eagerly-anticipated or as reliably unrewarding as the unveiling of a new manager.

The term 'unveiling' rather oddly suggests that said boss has hitherto been kept under a thin sheet, although in the case of Gianfranco Zola (pictured, actual size), you'd probably only need a hankie.

So, what did we learn from Zola's first outing as West Ham gaffer?

Players' diet: "Pie-mash? I'm not afraid of it ... I'll give it a try whenever I can!"

Discipline: "If I have to get tough I will ... I just hope the player opposite me is not too big!"

Tactics: "At my interview I tried to convince the board that I should play with a goalkeeper and 10 defenders."

Only when talking about transfers did Zola offer anything of interest. He claimed to be in charge of buying and selling players, but then backpedalled so fast his little legs were nothing but a Sonic the Hedgehog-style blur.

First he ventured: "Who is in charge of transfers? Me!"

Then: "We are a team, GN [Gianluca Nani] and the board are part of the team. Once I see how the team is we make plans."

Then: "I have no problem working with a technical director. My job is working on the pitch."

Then: "I'll develop the players, then I'll report to the technical director. He's working with me, not against me."

So, that question again - who is in charge of transfers?

The only thing we learned is that Zola will never again look this happy as West Ham manager.

All this larking about and pretending he had paid John Terry to say nice things about him (perhaps not the most politic remark for a Sardinian to make) will soon become a thing of the past.

You could scour the globe and not find a more hangdog quintet of men than the last five Hammers bosses - Billy Bonds, Harry Redknapp, Glenn Roeder, Alan Pardew and Alan Curbishley.

Managing West Ham adds years like nothing else - except, perhaps, representing China at gymnastics.

Which could be very bad news for Zola, whose minimal dusting of hair at the front will soon be a distant memory.

Forget who to buy and sell - Zola's toughest decision is how to deal with his impending baldness.

Does he take the Gianluca Vialli route and lop it all off?

Does he do a Shane Warne and pretend it was there all along?

Or does he do a Larry David, and persist with an apologetic rump of hair hanging off the back of his head?

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WAR! Huh! Good God! What is it good for?

Quite a lot, if you believe the bad of today's Sun. Whipping themselves into a Heskey-snubbing frenzy, they have rechristened the England strikeforce of Walcott and Rooney 'War'.

It's an acronym thing, you see, like SAS in the 90s - Shearer and Sutton at Blackburn, subsequently hijacked to form the more famous England partnership of Shearer and Sheringham.

Using similar acronym-based logic, Early Doors suggests England's centre-backs could be responsible for smuggling those crisps and Mars bars into the dressing-room after training. (Go on, think about it).

Similarly, it is hardly any surprise that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard play like a couple of old ladies when paired together.

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The Chinese Olympic football team has provided Early Doors with plenty of amusement over the last couple of years.

They provide an unlikely source of hope for pro-democracy campaigners in China, as the prove that not even the might and organisation of the world's most feared regime can tame football's inherent cupidity, laziness and idiocy.

While the rest of their countrymen, women and children were preparing up to smash Uncle Sam in the medals table, the footballers geared up for Beijing by, in no particular order, brawling with QPR, becoming addicted to their Playstations, fighting their coaches, quizzing soldiers about prostitution (no really), drink driving and subsequently crashing.

Unsurprisingly, they went out at the group stage.

All very funny for Early Doors, but not for sponsors Infront Sports & Media, who have demanded an £835,000 refund on their investment because of the team's pathetic showing.

"It's reasonable for us to raise the issue. The Chinese team was eliminated at the beginning of the group competition, which left our advertising and budget plans in a mess," said a spokesman for the company.

"The request is really due to the team's poor performance."

If they are successful, ED strongly recommends the Derbyshire Building Society takes similar action after spending all of last season with their name on the shirts of the Premier League's worst-ever team.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Do you think I'll start against Borat's boys?" What the Daily Star claims Theo Walcott said after his hat-trick against Croatia. England play Kazakhstan on October 11 and the above quote is almost certainly a fabrication.

FOREIGN VIEW: "We will not have any winter signings" - Real Madrid's sporting director Predrag Mijatovic claims they won't even pretend to be interested in Cristiano Ronaldo until February at the earliest.

TALKING POINT: g_hine on the curiously well-spoken Saint Theo: "I love the fact that Theo Walcott is the most articulate person in the England squad... It harks back to a day when you could get coherent post-match analysis from Graeme Le Saux. How long is it before the reverse intellectual snobs start calling Walcott gay?"

It's true - we live in a world where you're not a 'real man' if you can speak in complete sentences or read a newspaper.

Today - Liverpool v United tomorrow - care to make a prediction? And do you even care about the Premier League now England are brilliant again?

COMING UP: You know we have live scoring of every English league game, right? Well, we do. And to prove it, we'd like you to stare at your screen for the duration of Hartlepool versus Cheltenham and see if we don't put in the scores and scorers. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

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