Gianfranco Zola on brink of quitting as West Ham manager as internal warfare continues
Such is the intense pressure being felt by Gianfranco Zola that the West Ham manager is believed to be close to breaking point.
It is understood that he is considering walking out after Saturday’s vital relegation battle against Stoke City – even if his team are victorious.
Zola could stay until the end of the season, but what appears increasingly certain is that he will not remain in charge for the next campaign, even though co-chairman David Sullivan offered him his “100 per cent” support earlier this week. The beleaguered club, yet again, is enveloped in a crisis.
Zola, it is understood, thought that he would leave in the summer but wanted to make sure he steered West Ham to safety before he did so because he felt a debt to the club, supporters and players. If he were to walk out now it would mean he might forego a pay-off from his £1.9 million salary.
Club sources insisted on Friday that it was “by no means certain” that Sullivan would sack Zola if West Ham lost on Saturday, although, given the chairman’s public criticisms earlier this week, the relationship between the pair now appears to have collapsed.
Sullivan would require the permission of Straumur, the failed Icelandic bank which still owns half of West Ham, to remove Zola.
Sullivan’s co-chairman, David Gold, was at the training ground on Friday and insisted that “Franco’s our man” and there was “no question” of his being sacked, adding that he [Gold] was “content with the way things are”.
However, when Zola was asked directly whether he felt that the owners were trying to get him to walk away, he said: “That is a good question. I don’t know. I understand the chairman, Mr Sullivan, is very much concerned about the situation. We are not in a very good position and he is concerned. I am concerned as much as him. I have faith in the players I am working with.”
That faith does not appear to be shared by Sullivan who was at the club’s Chadwell Heath training ground on Thursday and addressed the players himself. Among his criticisms – he has attacked the team, and therefore Zola, whom he previously questioned as “too nice”, for being poorly organised and lacking in fight – was a claim that they were not fit enough.
Sullivan is understood to have been challenged by one senior player who told him that it was harmful to make so many public comments attacking the squad. (Telegraph)
It seems that Gianfranco Zola may have had the stuffing knocked out of him after the Upton Park disaster against Wolves a few days ago. The defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers clearly had its effect on the West Ham boss and comments made by David Sullivan both in the press and to players at the training ground have only exacerbated the situation.
News that the clubs co owners have outlined a ten man list of replacements for the exit bound boss will not help matters either.
Exactly when the club needed to show a united front for the remaining games they appear to be losing their heads. The east London side have of course had a very bad season but still have their own fate in their hands (more or less) and they really needn’t press the self destruct button quite so soon.
Zola is paying the price for over performing last term and the Hammers ninth place finish seems a million miles away but the club would do well to show faith in the imp like Italian, at least until the end of the season because turning to a new boss at this stage would I fear not have the usual effect of an upturn in form and with just seven games left West Ham need to show that they are up for the fight rather than simply collapsing in a heap.
If Gianfranco really is going to quit today, and this source is by no means an unreliable one, then things could go from bad to worst very quickly and the clubs chasing West Ham will get a great boost if indeed they see rival lose their manager this late in the season.