Gianfranco Zola has resigned from his position as Watford manager after a poor run of results left last season’s playoff finalists 13th in the Championship table.
Zola guided the Hornets to the brink of the Premier League in May, but his side were denied by Crystal Palace and Kevin Phillips’ extra-time penalty in a 1-0 defeat at Wembley.
The Italian, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of the Premier League era after his starring role for Chelsea in the late 1990s, had been expected to lead another promotion charge this term, but he has been unable to replicate the success of last season.
A 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday was Watford’s fifth successive home loss and Zola has now fallen on his sword, claiming his decision was in the "best interests of the team."
Zola released a statement through the League Managers’ Association (LMA), which said: “To all Watford supporters. I am writing this today with a very heavy heart and after a lot of consideration, to tell you that I have resigned from my Head Coach position at Watford.
“First of all, this decision has not been made quickly. I mentioned after the game on Saturday that I wanted to think about things overnight and that is exactly what I have done. I must place Watford Football Club first in my thoughts and it is for this reason that I have taken my action.
"I feel that it is in the best interests of the team that somebody new is given the chance to bring the success which we have all hoped for and worked very hard for It is for a variety of reasons, and not just over one matter or one moment, that I feel this is the right decision for me, in the best interests of the Club - and I know I can trust you, the supporters, to respect my decision fully.
“… For now, I want to wish the players, the staff, the fans and everyone else who has Watford Football Club at heart my best wishes for the future. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve this Club and I am sure we will see each other again one day.”
Despite his recent struggles at Watford, Zola is among the bookies’ favourites for the managerial vacancy at West Brom following the sacking of Steve Clarke, who was his assistant at West Ham.