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Defiant Zola vows to save Hammers

WEST HAM manager Gianfranco Zola insists he will return to England this week and steer the club to safety, having spent the last 48 hours mulling over his future.

The Italian sought refuge in his native Sardinia after Saturday’s defeat to Stoke – their sixth on the trot – left them just goal difference off the bottom three.

But yesterday he spoke out to assure fans he would not be quitting, and reiterated his determination to drastically improve results in the final six games of the season.

“I am determined to carry on,” said Zola. “Losing on Saturday was emotional for everyone but I know we can turn it around and we have the ability to achieve our objectives.

“The owners have backed me and I am grateful for that. My only thought for now is to keep this club in the Premier League and that remains my goal. I will give everything I can to make this happen. I have had time to think and reflect, and 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. The performance was better on Saturday but it is still not the level we should be at. We can, and we will, do better as a team.”

Speculation over Zola’s position has reached fever pitch in recent days following back-to-back defeats against fellow strugglers Wolves and Stoke.

Owners David Gold and Davis Sullivan have publicly criticised the team’s recent performances but have pledged to stand by Zola, who is thought to retain the support of senior players. West Ham are around £100m in debt and can ill afford relegation, which would slash their income by at least £30m a season.

“No one should write us off,” added Zola, whose side face Everton next. “Although we are in a serious position we have time to sort things out and be in control of our destiny at the end of the season.”

BREAK THE HABIT | DITCHING A LOSING STREAK
Gianfranco Zola has been criticised for giving players three days off after their weekend defeat – but will the mini-break prove a masterstroke? Saracens and London Irish both bounced back into form with resounding wins in rugby on Sunday after returning from short trips. Everton: you have been warned.