West Ham Fires Zola After Finishing Season One Place Above Relegation

West Ham United fired manager Gianfranco Zola after the club finished one place above the relegation positions in soccer’s Premier League.

“The board of directors would like to thank him for his contribution and wish him well for the future,” the east London club said on its website. “The club will now be focusing its efforts on seeking a replacement.”

West Ham finished 17th in the 20-team league, and didn’t secure its place in the top division for next season until the next-to-last round of games.

Zola had come under criticism from new co-owner David Sullivan, who took over the club in January. In March, Sullivan told supporters the team’s performance in a 3-1 home loss to Wolves was “shambolic” and “pathetic.”

“Over recent weeks, I have been the subject of various adverse comments from within the club, which have been widely reported in the media,” Zola said in a statement released today by the League Managers Association. “Despite what has been a very difficult period for me, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at West Ham.”

Zola said he was “extremely proud” of his players and staff’s efforts in keeping the club in the top flight.

Run of Defeats

Zola, 43, took the post, his first club coaching job, when he replaced Alan Curbishley in September 2008. He had been assistant manager of Italy’s Under-21 team.

After finishing ninth in Zola’s first season, West Ham won just one of its first 10 games in this campaign. Media speculation over his future began after Sullivan and David Gold took over as the team continued to fall down the Premier League standings.

Following a sixth consecutive loss in March that left the Hammers above the three-team relegation zone on a superior goal difference over Hull, Zola said he would consider his future.

West Ham rebounded to win two and draw two over the final six games and avoided relegation on May 3 when Hull drew at Wigan.

Zola previously played for clubs including Chelsea, Napoli and Parma, as well as the Italian national team.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

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