Cole up for the challenge

Carlton Cole has won plenty of praise this season for his endeavours in the West Ham United attack but is determined to add goals to his good all-round team play.

Cole is facing extra competition for a starting berth against Blackburn Rovers with Bobby Zamora, Dean Ashton and even 18-year-old youth-team sensation Freddie Sears in the mix. If selected from the off or entering the fray from the bench, Cole is hoping it is a case of practice makes perfect. "I am doing extra shooting practice in training. I am trying to get used to hitting the back of the net regularly and getting into good habits. Every player is working hard on their game."

Even though he was not in the starting eleven at Tottenham Hotspur, the towering 24-year-old striker has proved a useful option for Alan Curbishley on numerous occasions. As the regular figurehead of a 4-5-1 formation popular throughout the Premier League this season, he has proved the first line of defence with his tireless running and hold-up play. A change of tactics at White Hart Lane saw him on the substitutes' bench, but Cole recognises what is most important.

"I can complain to a degree but first and foremost it is about the team and getting the results," he said, before acknowledging what is required from all. "All we have to do is work on our game, get the ball up the field and try and retain it and be more clinical. I am very critical of myself for not putting some of the chances away against a few sides this season. I could be in double figures by now if I did put them away but I didn't and this is what I need to learn. But I am improving every game I play."

There is no questioning Cole's raw talent and hunger to do well for West Ham United and he said there is no sign of anyone at the club giving up on a strong finish to the campaign. "We are looking forward to the Blackburn game and the chance to try and put things right. Hopefully we can get a solid base now and crack on from there. The team spirit is still good. Obviously we are disappointed about results but the atmosphere is always going to be good here because we have got strong characters."

The one thing Cole wants to stress is the players were hurt by the events of the past three games where, particularly against Chelsea and Liverpool, "attacking was non-existent" and he "had to try and work hard, shut down and hold the ball up as much as possible". His efforts proved in vain but he underlined how United were still united. "All of us do care about the situation we have found ourselves in this last week," he said. "We are going to do our best to put in a better performance against Blackburn."

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