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Sep 19, 2009

Zola's Ashton fears as Davenport thanks fans

West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola admits he is concerned over Dean Ashton's future following the striker's year on the sidelines with an ankle injury. Defender Calum Davenport meanwhile has issued a public statement as he recovers from a horrific knife attack which has endangered his life as well as footballing career. Ashton, 25, broke his left ankle in 2006 before aggravating the problem last September - and he is still training on his own with personal coach John Green rather than with Zola's squad.

No comeback date has been set for the £7.25million signing from Norwich.

"The problem he had was quite serious, it was more serious than anybody thought," Zola said. "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."

There have been unsubstantiated reports that Ashton has considered retirement, but Zola added: "We have not discussed that at all and anyway he knows I trust him and whatever he does I have been trying to help and will keep trying to help him."

Ashton suffered his initial injury while on England duty and was out for a year, before coming back and earning a place in Fabio Capello's squad after 11 goals in the 2008 season.

After suffering his setback he missed the 2009 campaign, which was frustrating for Zola in his rookie season as a Premier League manager.

"He is one of the players that I have had a lot of hopes for," he 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."

Training on his own means Ashton has had limited contact with his striker.

"I have not interacted with him very much because he has been out," Zola said. "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."

Meanwhile, West Ham's Calum Davenport believes blood transfusions probably saved his life.

Davenport suffered heavy bleeding after he was allegedly attacked and stabbed in both legs by his sister's boyfriend with a kitchen knife in Bedford last month.

Writing on his Premier League club's website, Davenport reports he is "feeling positive" - although he remains in hospital nearly a month on.

"At the moment I am still in hospital and have quite a long way to go on the road to recovery, but I am feeling positive," he said.

"Thanks to the club, my team-mates and fans, to the club doctors and the amazing staff at Bedford Hospital who have looked after me so well.

"I would also like to thank anyone who has ever donated blood, because you probably saved my life. I would like to encourage everyone to give blood."

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