Zola takes flight after hinting he will not come back

West Ham United 0 Stoke City 1

Gianfranco Zola yesterday retreated to Sardinia to nurse his wounds and consider his future. Back at West Ham there are doubts as to whether their manager will return.

Zola's trip home was pre-planned, West Ham do not play again until Sunday and the players are not back in training until tomorrow. However, in the wake of Saturday's home defeat by Stoke, their sixth straight loss, it has taken on new significance.

Zola will use the break to decide whether to continue leading Hammers' fight against relegation or whether to step aside. The feeling is he will do the latter. Zola left Upton Park on Saturday night talking openly of quitting. He wondered if he "was the problem", and said he would do what he felt was best for the club. "I have to see if I can sort it out. That's the bottom line," he added.

The decision will be his. The crowd are not demanding a sacking, the players support him, and so, for now, do the co-owners, David Gold and David Sullivan. While Sullivan is understood to have always doubted Zola's managerial acumen he has been persuaded by Gold to give him a chance and Zola was assured of their backing after the match. The owners were surprised when Zola subsequently told the media he may resign.

The financial aspects are not a major issue. Zola is on close to £2m a year, Steve Clarke, the club's assistant coach, on more than £1m. The pair signed new contracts less than a year ago which run to 2013.

In theory sacking them could cost nearly £10m but even if fired Zola, a rich man, would not demand full payment, and not just because that could preclude him working again for three years.

A novice when he took over in September 2008, Zola admits to making mistakes. One may have been the odd decision to adopt a more direct style on Saturday with two big men against opponents whose back four are all centre-halves. Even his goalkeeper, Rob Green, who was otherwise supportive of Zola, said: "Maybe we should play a bit more football around the final third which would make a difference."

Maybe it was not Zola's decision, besides demanding team changes (there were five) Sullivan had talked of putting the club's ball-playing tradition aside in pursuit of a victory. Is Zola strong enough to stand up to Sullivan? It was Clarke who told the co-owner to leave when he tried to attend a meeting between players and management last week. Perhaps a partnership of Clarke as manager and Zola as coach would have been the best combination, but it is a bit late for that.

What West Ham need is organisation and confidence – easier to talk about than to instill. A fresh face may help, but it would need to be an experienced one. Following Zola's comments on Saturday the owners have drawn up a short-list of possible replacements but are yet to sound anyone out.

For an example of what can be achieved on a tight budget though discipline, effort, smart tactics and sheer bloody-mindedness West Ham need look no further than Saturday's opposition.

Stoke were short of form themselves, but they are organised, resolute and in Ricardo Fuller possess a player always capable of producing the unexpected. In this fixture last season that was a slap to the face of his then- captain Andy Griffin, for which he got a red card. This season a food bug meant he spent the first 66 minutes on the bench, but when he joined the fray he dribbled his way to a goal Lionel Messi would savour.

West Ham had nothing remotely similar, though Carlton Cole offered threat and Scott Parker industry. However, with Hull showing signs of life, that may not be enough. Home matches against Sunderland, Wigan and Manchester City offer hope, but their last three were against Bolton, Wolverhampton and Stoke, and they were all lost.

"They need a game where they are not playing well but they win, that will bring the confidence back," said Tony Pulis. Sparing a thought for his counterpart the Stoke manager added: "As a manager this is when you need a bit of loving, tender care. It is a very lonely job. You take it home with you."

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Faubert, Da Costa, Upson, Spector; Dyer (Diamanti, h-t), Parker, Noble (Ilan, 75), Behrami; Mido (McCarthy, 83), Cole. Substitutes not used: Kurucz (gk ), Gabbidon, Kovac, Daprela.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Ab Faye (Wilkinson, 25), Higginbotham, Collins; Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Etherington (Fuller, 66); Sidibe, Kitson (Tuncay, 47). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Pugh, Am Faye, Moult.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Stoke Whelan, Delap.

Man of the match: Fuller.

Attendance: 34,564

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits