Zola replaces Rowett at Birmingham

Updated: 

Birmingham City have hired former Italy striker Gianfranco Zola as their new manager after the surprise sacking of Gary Rowett earlier in the day.

Former Birmingham defender Rowett was hired in October 2014 with the club sat second-bottom in the Championship after an 8-0 thrashing on home turf to Bournemouth.

He guided them to safety his first season, mid-table last term and seventh this time around, before he was sacked after a 2-1 win over Ipswich Town on Tuesday left them outside the play-off places on goal difference.

A club statement read: "Supporters can rest assured that the decision has been taken with a strategic, long-term view and with the club's best interests at heart."

Former Watford and West Ham boss Zola is the man to lead Birmingham into the future, returning to management after being sacked by Qatari club Al-Arabi earlier this year.

Club director Panos Pavlakis said: "We are delighted to welcome Gianfranco and his backroom team to the club.

"His pedigree, philosophy and ambition fits with what we would like to achieve as we move in a new direction.

"Gianfranco has a wealth of top-level experience as both manager and player and we are extremely excited about his appointment."