Bethnal Green United hoping for Zola magic
West Ham are climbing the Premier League table under Gianfranco Zola – now Bethnal Green United are hoping another Zola will have a similar effect on their Middlesex County League campaign
By JONATHAN CLEGG
West Ham are climbing the Premier League table under Gianfranco Zola - now Bethnal Green United are hoping another Zola will have a similar effect on their Middlesex County League campaign.
The Premier Division title-chasing club, who are bidding to win promotion to the Essex Senior League, have this week signed Jahed Khan, a prolific striker whose goal-scoring exploits for former club Stepney FC earned him the nickname 'Zola'.
Khan, the all-time leading scorer in the Sonali Bangla League, shares the West Ham manager's diminutive stature but according to United boss Justin Gardner, he also possesses some of the traits that made the Italian a hit as a player at Chelsea.
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"He's not the biggest, which is probably where the Zola nickname comes from, but he's a flair player and he'll get people up off their seats," said Gardner.
"I've got him because I think he'll score goals at this level. He's a goal-poacher but he can also score wonder-goals, he's good in the air, he's got good feet and wherever he's played, he's always scored goals.
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"He holds all the records in the Bangla League, he was top goalscorer in the London Winter League and he's a legend at Stepney.
"He's played there since he was 14 years old and the amount of times he's scored crucial goals for them is incredible."
Gardner is confident that Khan can emulate those goal-scoring feats at Bethnal Green, though he admits the striker is still struggling for fitness following a lengthy injury lay-off.
Gardner said: "He can play an important part in getting us up to the Essex Senior League. The only thing that will stop him from playing is his fitness.
"He had a bad injury and wasn't fit enough to join us earlier this season, but he's back in the gym and hopefully he'll be ready soon."
While the United boss is backing Khan to make a major impact on the field, he also hopes that the addition of one of the Asian community's most influential players will have a positive impact on the club's standing within the borough.
"In terms of us trying to represent the community and get them behind the club, it's a major signing because he's a player who is looked up to within the community and he's one of the best Asian players around," Gardner added.
"My focus is first and foremost on winning football matches and if he wasn't a good player I wouldn't want him. But we also want a team that reflects the community. Tower Hamlets is black, white and Asian - so why not have a team that reflects that?
"I'm hoping that by signing him, we'll get the whole community behind us.