Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Zola's Core Values

West Ham United have been boosted by the news that Carlton Cole has not broken his ankle, after it was originally feared the Hammers striker faced a long spell on the sidelines. Cole hobbled out of United's fifth round FA Cup draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday with an ankle injury, but an X-ray showed no breaks and, subject to a scan, the striker is targeting a return against Manchester City on March 1. A statement from the club read: 'A positive X-ray on Sunday showed no fracture and, ahead of an MRI scan to come, it is hoped the sprain could lead to only a two-week absence at worst.'

That will be a huge boost Gianfranco Zola, who is momentarily left with veteran Diego Tristan, 33, on-loan David Di Michele and youngster Freddie Sears, 19, as his only options up front. Perhaps mindful of the lack of depth, Zola has been keen to express his delight with Savio Nsereko's recent contributions. The United boss insisted the new recruit is "learning quickly and ahead of schedule" although reiterated the exciting forward still needs time. "He has been playing in a second division team in Italy," Zola stated on the club site. "I see he has good qualities but he needs time to settle. The game here is such you can't even imagine the difference in speed to Serie B in Italy. The best is to come from him. When he came on [against middlesbrough], he made a difference so I am sure that is going to be a big boost for him."

Carlton Cole's fitness has been brought into even sharper focus following the revelation that Dean Ashton will not play again this season. West Ham’s injury-jinxed hitman is still recovering after undergoing a third operation on his troublesome left ankle. The Hammers had hoped Ashton would play again this term after he first suffered the injury in training back in September. Yesterday, however, the England star admitted: "I’m looking to get myself back for pre-season now. I don’t want to come back unless I’m right."

In the meantime, Ashton has urged West Ham to ease his Upton Park injury hell by qualifying for next season's UEFA Cup. West Ham sit eighth in the Premier League and are currently seven points behind Everton, who currently occupy the final assured UEFA spot. A seventh-placed finish could be enough to qualify for Europe though, should Tottenham fail to retain the Carling Cup when they face Manchester United on March 1. Ashton has watched in admiration as United have lost just once in their past 10 games and still harbours hopes of winning the FA Cup. "With the position we're in at the moment, I don't see why we can't strive for Europe," Ashton said. "The team has been doing really well. Slowly but surely, the manager and Steve Clarke have really put their mark on the side. You can tell that by the way the team are playing and passing the ball about. It looks like a really good team to be playing in and the boys are doing really well. I'm not sure what has changed. I think a few wins boosted our confidence, we've had some good results and the defence has done really well. At the moment we've done well to get away from the relegation places and cement ourselves in mid-table but now the players can strive to do even better."

Elsewhere, Gianfranco Zola has hinted that England pair Robert Green and Matthew Upson could soon be offered new, long-term contracts. Green and Upson were two players who attracted interest during the January transfer window. A third, Scott Parker, has just signed an improved deal and captain Lucas Neill could soon follow. "There are players that have been very important this season on and off the pitch," said Zola, whose team, provided they beat Middlesbrough in next week's FA Cup replay, have been drawn away to Everton in the quarter-finals. "They are the core of this team and I believe they can be the core of this team for a long time. The club knows this and they are offering them contracts and they deserve that. It is good for stability. They are positive players and they will help us to build something important."

Zola has already stated that captain Lucas Neill remains a much-needed player at the club. Constant speculation has had the Socceroos captain linked with a move away from Upton Park but he has confirmed that he wants to stay at the club and now his manager has publicly revealed his desire to retain Neill. "Hopefully soon Lucas Neill will be signing a contract," he said. "Things are going well here we just need to understand that we want this to be for a long time. The idea is to make a blend of experienced players and young talented players to mix together and perform."


Tsaksonakis said...

I've been interested in the possibility of reaching Europe through finishing seventh for some time. Hopefully Man U will beat Spurs, and then, if we don't reach the FA cup final against one of the top six, there's a great chance that it will be contested between two of them.

Seems a bit back-door, but that would do me just fine.

PS The Fifth round replay v Boro is being shown live in ITV1, on Wednesday the 25th, k.o 8.10

Trilby said...

I think it is more than possible to finish above Wigan but I have a nagging suspicion Manchester City will prove to be a slightly tougher obstacle in the long run. A lot will depend on how healthy we can keep the squad.

Cheers for the TV info btw, that's great news.

Tsaksonakis said...

Just typing about the possibility of making Europe, is pretty amazing! Three months ago all was doom and gloom; it's great how Gianfranco and Stevie have turned it around

When CB breaks down again, as he inevitably will, I think Man City will discover they have done incredibly badly in the transfer window. Letting Jo go, as it were, may not be seen as too clever, either!

Great to see Pompey beating them on Saturday. Even though we can stand anything but, we live in hope.

Btw Did you discover who left the banana split on your wall?

Trilby said...

I hope you're right about Bellamy, I've had a few pangs of frustration already when he's managed to score for City. I was listening to the Times podcast last week and they said that whatever Man City's problem is, and they couldn't put their finger on, they will almost certainly find out that Bellamy is not the answer.

The bananas and custard remains a baffling mystery! Not that it seemed to vex the birds who picked at all day.


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