Gianfranco Zola has hit back at critics of Watford’s loan policy.
The Hornets are pushing for automatic promotion to the Premier League this season, although the shock 1-0 defeat at struggling Barnsley on Saturday has dented their chances. This was their second successive defeat in the Championship, having also come undone when they lost to Blackpool at home the previous week.
Zola’s side remain in third place in the Championship, and although they trail leaders Cardiff City by nine points, they are just two adrift of second-placed Hull City. Their options have been boosted this term by the addition of loan players, and currently have 14 on their books, ten of which have been borrowed from their sister club Udinese. Although Football League rules state clubs can only include five loan players in a matchday squad, those arranged with foreign clubs are classed as transfers.
This has led to criticism from some quarters, most notably Ian Holloway, the manager of Crystal Palace, from whom the Vicarage Road club outfit taken four points off this season. However, Zola has hit back at the critics, insisting they are playing by the rulebook.
“I paid attention for a little bit, but I stopped because it is nonsense,” the Italian coach said in The Times. “We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re just playing football, in many cases better than the opposition. That’s what matters.”
Zola, who had previously been in charge of West Ham United, has been linked with the Chelsea job when Rafael Benitez’s interim spell comes to an end in the summer. Although the 46-year-old spent seven years at Stamford Bridge during his playing career, he has played down suggestions he is in line for an emotional return.
“I would like to answer that question but I can’t. It would be unfair to other people,” he added. “That club is special for me, but for now I’m committed here.”