Clarke praises boss Zola

Steve Clarke has praised the job done by Gianfranco Zola in his first season as West Ham United manager.

The first-team coach believes his long-time friend was initially taken aback by the wide range of responsibilities foisted upon him after he took charge at the Boleyn Ground in September.

However, after leading the Hammers to a top-half Barclays Premier League finish in his first term at the helm, Clarke believes Zola has quickly come to grips with life as a top-flight manager.

The pair have worked closely with first-team coach Kevin Keen to turn West Ham into one of the Barclays Premier League's most attractive and entertaining sides.

Clarke believes the enthusiastic influence of Zola has paid dividends both on and off the pitch, inspiring West Ham's players to produce, at times, breathtaking football.

At the same time, the former Scotland international praised the manager for adapting to the highly-pressurised existence. "I think he's lost a little bit of hair, like myself!" joked Clarke. "I think he came into the job fresh and a little bit naïve and didn't know what to expect.

"I think very quickly, because he's an intelligent man, he's realised that it's not a cakewalk or an easy job. It's a very difficult job trying to control and manage a group of players but, for me, looking at it, I think he's done a fantastic job in his first season.

"Just purely getting to grips with the role, the decisions you have to make and the amount of times where you get frustrated and have to keep it under wraps. There are lots of different bits and pieces to being a manager and I think he's handled himself very, very well."