Say a little prayer for me, asks Zola

When Gianfranco Zola was asked after West Ham's sixth successive defeat last Saturday whether he would still be in charge of the team at Everton this weekend, there was a longish pause before he replied: "I think so." So he will be, but the pause and the necessity to consider the matter during a three-day break back home in Sardinia illustrated how differently the "project" that Zola continues to refer to has panned out since he walked into Upton Park with such high hopes for his first management position 19 months ago.

A mere six weeks ago, the worst seemed over. In fact it was yet to come. Successive home wins over Birmingham and Hull without conceding a goal had lifted the team to 13th place, with an apparently comfortable run of winnable home games looming. Alas, the next one against Bolton was somehow lost, as were – unsurprisingly – meetings with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Then, catastrophically, home games against Wolves and Stoke were lost in the space of a week. Boos and jeers greeted the last two performances, many fans directing as much venom at the manager as at the players.

Zola and his assistant have always had the problem that as (essentially) Chelsea men, the Eastenders are not naturally well disposed to them. The manager's all-round decency and Steve Clarke's low profile were mitigating factors while things were going well but have not spared them recently in a run that has reached six successive defeats as they head to Everton today. It is the worst spell since Alan Pardew lost eight in a row in all competitions shortly before being sacked, a fate that Zola believes he will now avoid.

"The owners after the Stoke game gave me their support and that's enough for me," he said after training on Friday. "I'm gonna be working to prove them right." The axe, if it was going to fall, would presumably have done so by now? "I would think so." No falling on his sword either, and a repeated determination to stick to the principles of good football he was brought up with, and that West Ham always profess to believe in: "I won't change my philosophy or my style. It's the only reason I'm in football."

What he does admit to doing, presumably with Clarke's influence, is working rather more on tightening things up at the back, where a defence with English internationals in Robert Green and Matthew Upson has often looked embarrassingly loose. "We've been working a lot, last week and this week, on organisation. In the Stoke game there was an improvement and it was just decided by a piece of magic from [Ricardo] Fuller."

Inexperience and tactical naivety are two of the failings that have been levelled by supporters, most of whom seem to expect there will be a new manager by August. After a little Sardinian navel-gazing, however, Zola is convinced that he has the qualities to see the club to safety this season. "Before, as a player, I was on my own. Now I'm responsible for the players. What's keeping me happy is that I think I'm doing the right things. The run is dreadful, but I know I have the players and a brilliant staff behind me and we're all together."

Three years ago, West Ham were actually a point worse off at this stage and seemed certain to be accompanying Charlton and Watford into the Championship. An almost unimaginable run of four successive wins, culminating against the champions Manchester United on the final day, kept them up. One of the differences, of course, was a certain Carlos Tevez, scoring three goals in those last two games and now due at Upton Park with Manchester City, conceivably desperate for points, on the last afternoon of the season. But best not to look too far ahead, even on a day for miracles. Goodison on Easter Day is enough to concentrate on for now, with Zola – "I'm religious in my way" – saying a little prayer for salvation.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all