The West Ham United manager, Gianfranco Zola, yesterday denied claims he is ready to resign before Sunday's trip to Everton. Zola flew to Sardinia at the weekend to fulfil a pre-arranged commitment and will return from the three-day break this evening.
The Italian's trip to his homeland sparked speculation he was considering quitting before he is sacked, as it is widely believed that the club's joint chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold intend to bring in a new manager in the summer, whether West Ham survive in the Premier League or not. Sullivan wrote a letter to fans last week in the wake of a 3-1 home defeat to Wolves that was openly critical of the team. He has previously described Zola as being "too nice".
Saturday's home defeat to Stoke was West Ham's sixth reverse in a row, and left them outside the bottom three only on goal difference. Zola spoke after the game of having to decide if he was the problem, but yesterday he was far more defiant and, having given the players three days off, he was talking of the need to work harder.
"I have had time to think and reflect, and we will have to work harder than we have before. I know we can get the results we need and it is just a question of making it happen," Zola said. "I am determined to carry on. Losing on Saturday was emotional for everyone, but we can turn it around and we have the ability to achieve our objectives.
"My only thought for now is to keep this club in the Premier League. I will give everything I can to make this happen between now and the end of the season. We can, and we will, do better as a team. We have a responsibility to turn things around. I am ready to do what I need to do to get the results."