West Ham admit Zola may leave

West Ham co-owner David Gold admits there is a very real possibility that his efforts to persuade Gianfranco Zola to stay on as manager may ultimately prove to be in vain.

The future of the Hammers boss is in doubt after Gold's partner David Sullivan claimed yesterday that the Italian could resign at the end of the season.

Zola has not enjoyed the best relationship with the former Birmingham City owners since they rescued the debt-ridden club from the brink of administration with a £50million takeover in January.

Zola clashed with the pair over the club's decision to complain to the Premier League about Fulham's weakened team against Hull, while Sullivan's description of the team's performance against Wolves as "pathetic" did little to ease tensions between the two parties.

With West Ham now all but assured of their top-flight status, Zola is thought to be considering leaving the club.

Gold denied that Steve McClaren and Avram Grant had been contacted about taking over from Zola, but he concedes that the diminutive Italian may leave Upton Park after the club's remaining games against Fulham and Manchester City.

"I have not spoken to, and am not speaking to, any other managers about taking over at West Ham," Gold told Press Association Sport.

"I haven't spoken to Franco since Sunday but what I do know is that he's preparing for the away match at Fulham (on Sunday).

"I'm going to the training ground on Friday as usual. I'll talk to him then.

"I hope he stays, but him leaving is a scenario, it is a possibility.

"He has had a tough time. He's had two years at West Ham and for a good part of that time he didn't know who was running the club. He's had bad luck as well.

"He could say 'I have done a fantastic job, I have got West Ham out of jail when I was given a chance and I have managed to go through all that and keep West Ham in the Premier League'.

"You could make a case for it. Do I believe that he will? There's always a possibility."

Gold also sought to dampen fears that the likes of Matthew Upson, Robert Green and Carlton Cole could leave Upton Park as part of a fire sale this summer.

"I hope our best players will be with us next season," Gold said.

"I hope they sign new contracts and remain settled at the club.

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