West Ham co-owner David Gold backs boss Gianfranco Zola
Zola has so far refused to discuss his future at the club
West Ham joint-chairman David Gold hopes manager Gianfranco Zola will remain at Upton Park next season.
The Hammers have endured a difficult season but effectively secured their Premier League survival on Saturday courtesy of a 3-2 win over Wigan.
"I am desperately hoping he will stay but there is work to do," Gold told BBC Radio 5 live.
"He has been to hell and back these last 12 months. There is a possibility he might want to take a sabbatical."
After guiding West Ham to ninth in the Premier League in his debut season as manager last year, Zola has found his second season tougher going.
The 43-year-old Italian has a contract until 2013, but his position has come under even greater scrutiny since the arrival in January of new owners Gold and David Sullivan.
Several managers, including Martin Jol, Steve McClaren and Mark Hughes, have been linked with Zola's job.
Zola praises 'outstanding' West Ham
Whilst Portsmouth boss Avram Grant, Leicester's Nigel Pearson and Peter Reid have also been touted as possible contenders to replace him.
However, after the victory over Wigan, and defeats for both Hull and Burnley at the weekend which effectively secured West Ham's survival, Gold revealed that Zola had fulfilled the demands placed upon him.
"When we arrived the remit we gave Franco was to keep us up and he's done that," said Gold.
"We went through a difficult period when we lost six straight games but the draw at Everton turned this round and he has achieved what he was asked to do."
West Ham's considerable goal difference advantage over Hull means their place in the top-flight next season is essentially assured and former Birmingham owner Gold added he now hopes the club will be able to hold on to its prized playing assets.
"We desperately need to keep our best players," admitted Gold.
"There has been disarray for the last few years and it has been a difficult season for the players and the managers.
"We would like to think there will be no sales in the close season but you can never tell with thee things. Some may want to leave.
"What I can assure our fans is that we will do everything to retain our best players."
In an email sent out to West Ham fans on Monday, Zola reflected on a difficult season for West Ham, but made no mention of his own future.
"There is a saying in England that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger," said Zola. "I'm certain the club will be a different proposition next season, especially with the stability off the pitch and the experience everyone has gained.
"We still have work to do and two more games to play but it will be a big deal for me to keep us up. I have put so much into it, as have the players - physically and emotionally."
One of those players, midfielder Scott Parker, who scored the London club's winner against Wigan, paid a glowing tribute to Zola in the aftermath of Saturday's crucial victory.
Parker, who along with team-mates showed support for the manager by running to the touchline to celebrate with the Italian after his goal, told West Ham's website: "A lot of people say he is a nice man but he is not just a nice man, he is an extremely talented and good manager.
"People will say I would support him but, from the bottom of my heart, he is a good man and he is a very good manager, along with the staff he has got here. Hopefully we can go and push on next year.
"The manager has helped me throughout the season. I don't think I would have had the season like I have had personally without him behind me.
"He has given me massive belief and confidence and, from my reaction, you can see that I respect him."
Parker celebrated his winner on Saturday with Zola
Zola refused to discuss his future at the weekend, saying: "It is important but I'm not going to spend time right now speaking about things because I don't know how things will turn out."
Even if he leaves the club - whether or not by his own volition - Zola said he was proud of the fight his players have shown of late.
"Staying up would be a big big deal because we've had to deal with so many problems this season," said the former Chelsea player. "You only know half of them.
"It's been difficult, but despite that we've stuck together. Players have put a lot into this season, not just physically but mentally. It's been an emotional year.
"But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and everyone will be stronger for this experience."
Gold added that whoever is manager at Upton Park next season will be able to enjoy operating under an efficient regime, working towards financial stability.
"We have good governance," he said. "Sullivan brings great stability to the club and Karren Brady is one of the best chief executives in the business.
"It's not brain surgery. You have to cut outgoing and increase income."
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