Ashton is battling to get back in action again at Upton Park
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola has dismissed reports that striker Dean Ashton is considering early retirement.
Ashton, 25, broke his left ankle in 2006 before aggravating the problem last September and is training away from the squad with his personal coach.
Despite admitting he was concerned over Ashton's future, Zola said the pair had not talked about Ashton quitting.
"He knows I trust him and whatever he does I have been trying to help and will keep trying to help," Zola said.
No comeback date has been set for Ashton, a £7.25m signing from Norwich in January 2006, with his recovery currently taking place alongside personal coach John Green rather than with Zola's squad.
The former Crewe star suffered his initial injury while on England duty and was out of action for a year, before returning and earning a place in Fabio Capello's squad after 11 goals in the 2008 season.
Zola added: "The problem he had was quite serious, it was more serious than anybody thought. It has been one year and obviously I am getting concerned about it.
"I can't say 'I'll give you three months', I can't force his progress along. But I do respect his willingness to come back and I am going to be supportive to him, not the one who is pushing him."
After suffering his setback, he missed the entire 2008/09 campaign, much to Zola's frustration in his first season as a Premier League manager.
"He is one of the players that I have had a lot of hopes for," Zola said. "I have been waiting one year and I have not had him.
"According to everyone, including myself, he was one of the best players of the team. He made my job much more difficult. I am very sorry for the boy and I imagine what he is going through and that he is suffering a lot.
"All my thoughts are with him. I wish that he will find his way forward as soon as possible."
Zola, who revealed that he has had limited contact with his striker, added: "He knows that I want him very much and he is one of the players that if I had him on the pitch our performances would have been better."
West Ham have had an indifferent start to the new season, beating Wolverhampton on the opening day, but have since lost to Tottenham and Wigan and drawn at Blackburn.
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