Steve Clarke has spoken about how much he is enjoying life at West Ham United ahead of the visit of Aston Villa on Saturday.

Clarke was reunited with Gianfranco Zola when he was appointed assistant manager in September, and he explains how he was drawn to the club. "I knew it would be a challenge for me and that is the reason I decided to come across London. I could have stayed where I was and been comfortable challenging for trophies. I just felt that to push myself as a coach and for the next stage of my development this was an opportunity that was interesting."

Although the faces and facilities have changed, Clarke's methods have not. "I try to coach the same," he explains. "I'm enjoying it, coming here has been good. Hopefully I bring the same methods, ideas and enthusiasm to the training ground here as I did at Chelsea. I've enjoyed the challenge working with different players that maybe haven't seen me working over the last four years, and I think they've responded well to it."

Although progress has been made, he feels there is still a lot more to come. "This sounds a little bit silly but some of the training sessions have been excellent and we haven't managed to take those training performances on to the pitch yet but, given a little bit of time, I think that will happen. Hopefully the last game was a sign and an indication of the standards we can achieve on the pitch."

The former Scotland defender has watched with interest as his former team-mate Zola has developed into the role of manager. "I think he understands the role more. You've always got some problem. There's always someone coming to you asking for an opinion. There's always someone wanting advice on something. He is very intelligent, Franco, and he's quickly picked up that it's not an easy job.

"When we started we said we'd try to smile every day and if he can get me to smile every day, he's doing well," he joked. "My job as the assistant manager is to give him as much help as I can and that's what I tried to do in the roles I had at Chelsea.

Clarke was pleased with 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge last weekend, but said the return would have been 'extra special' if they had left with all three points. "It was a good point; going away to Stamford Bridge is never easy. I think the performance as much as the point was the pleasing thing. We let ourselves down on the Monday night game at home to Tottenham Hotspur so it was important to bounce back and we did that.

"I think the performances generally, although we haven't been picking up a lot of points, have been decent. Maybe the rub of the green, the bounce of the ball in the right direction would have got us more points. I think we should have had more points than we have."

Aside from Sunday's result, the noise created by the travelling support in west London added to the feel-good factor after the game. "The supporters at this club have been great since I came. They area very vociferous at home and they want to get behind their team. The only time they maybe didn't get behind their team was against Tottenham, but we were poor. If we give a good performance they'll get behind us."

With nearly a fully fit squad training hard all week and buoyed by Sunday's result, the former defender says it has been a good week at Chadwell Heath. "The players were pleased with their performance least week at Chelsea and so they should be. But the last home game wasn't a good game. We didn't play very well so we have to get that right this week.

"We're one point away from the relegation zone but we're also two or three points away from chasing a European position so the league is very close. If any team can string together a series of victories then they shoot up that table and it starts to look a little bit better."

Standing in the way of West Ham United's attempt to move up are Saturday's guests Aston Villa. They have not left east London with three points for 12 years but Clarke knows this year's game will not be easy with the Midlanders riding high in the table. "I think Martin O Neill has put together a good collection of players and has them playing in a very effective manner, playing some good football with good results. I think this season they can break into the top four.

"They have some good young players, but we also have one or two young players ourselves and I think maybe it's time now to start pushing the young boys through the academy system and getting them into the first team."

United are now four games unbeaten away from home but like many other Premier League clubs are finding it tougher going at home. "It's been an unusual kind of season - don't ask me why. I don't understand why teams are struggling more at home than away. It seems that this year, teams are finding it easier playing without the added pressure of playing in front of their own supporters where they demand a performance."

The Christmas period is busy time in football and the Hammers have a trip to Portsmouth and a home match to Stoke City before the year is out, but Clarke is focused solely on Saturday's fixture. "I don't think we're in a position where we can look too far ahead. We can only concentrate solely on the next game, which is difficult game. We know that and are prepared for it. As quickly as possible we need to win again and this weekend would be a good time to do it."