Sunderland manager Roy Keane has admitted he liked Gianfranco Zola so much as a player he did not even want to kick him.
Keane has huge admiration for the diminutive Italian, and did so even when they were opponents on the pitch for Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.
"He brought something to the Premier League, without a doubt; [not only] the fact he was a brilliant player, but the way he played," he said.
"He played with a smile on his face. Everyone liked him, opposition supporters, even players - you didn't really want to kick him.
"You didn't. You thought, 'If I have to, I will, but it's not my intention before the game starts to kick him' because he came across really well.
"I guarantee everyone is wishing him well because he played with a spirit in a great way."
Keane will not be kicking anyone when his side face Zola's Hammers on Sunday as he attempts to guide the Black Cats to a first home win in three attempts in all competitions after a 2-1 league defeat by Portsmouth and a similar reverse at the hands of Blackburn in the Carling Cup.
The Wearsiders gained their revenge over Paul Ince's side at Ewood Park last weekend when strikers Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse scored in the same match for the first time, and the Irishman will hope for more of the same this time around.
Jones, Dwight Yorke and Carlos Edwards, who has been recalled from a loan spell at Wolves, will be assessed after their return from international duty with Trinidad and Tobago in midweek, with the winger hoping for a chance to prove himself once again.
Keane said: "The whole point of Carlos going out in the first place was to get some games under his belt out on loan. He is on the back of five, six, seven games, he has had the full international match this week and I just feel with the games coming up, particularly now with Kenwyne back with us, Carlos gives us good options."
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