Bellamy feeling good

Craig Bellamy has spoken about the impact made by Gianfranco Zola and his ambitions for West Ham United - starting with Arsenal on Sunday afternoon.

The striker, who has made four appearances off the bench this campaign, is set for his first start at the Boleyn Ground since 21 October 2007 - a 3-1 home win against Sunderland - and will take plenty into the game from the new manager. "He's got a lot and works with you very closely which is very good," Bellamy said when asked about the Zola effect.

"He's very humble as well. He's not 'look, you should be able to do this or you should be able to do that'. He says 'try and do this' and the way he puts it across is very good. He gives you just little bits. He doesn't try getting into you. It's just that little bit he knows can bring you on.

"He works with you every day like players did with him when he was a player because he was obviously with some of the best like [Diego] Maradona and everyone. At Napoli and at Parma he worked with some outstanding players. So he's trying to do that by coming here. His enthusiasm is such that after every training session he is doing something with us - shooting, skills and free-kicks he's very big on."

Bellamy went on to describe his manager as "different class" and acknowledged how hard it can be for any coach coming in to a new club. He added: "It's difficult for him because we were a team that did all the pre-season under a different manager and then, suddenly, a couple of weeks into the season, he's come in and had to put his ideas across which he hasn't been shy in doing. The players have responded well."


The Wales captain also has admiration for Zola's opposite number on Sunday, Arsene Wenger, for the way he has shaped Arsenal over the past decade. "They're an outstanding team and a really outstanding football club. The way they're run and everything about them is just special. They've got one of the greatest managers in the world there who has changed the Premier League and had a massive influence on football in this country."

While Bellamy looks up to the likes of Wenger, his own approach to the game and response to a question of whether he sees himself as a role model is that he simply aims to be the best he can be in training and then take that on into matches. "I just try to look after myself and try and set my own standards so if I play well on a Saturday, people say 'look what he does in the week. No wonder he plays well'.

"I can be the greatest professional in the world but if I don't play well it'll go over people's heads. That's why I've got to get the balance. There's looking after myself and then I've got to put in a performance at the end of the week and people will realise there is no coincidence."

He has been working particularly hard of late to get back to his best and is relishing the chance to take on Arsenal. "It's a good game to have as my first start for a year at Upton Park. I feel really good. I'm not naive enough to think I'm going to be straight back in. I need more games ... training has really stepped up again and hopefully with Arsenal and then Man United [on Wednesday], touch wood, I just want to keep playing now.

The final word should perhaps go to his manager, with Zola impressed by what he has seen at Chadwell Heath and in the rarefied air of the Barclays Premier League when it comes to his dynamic No10. "He is very important," he said. "He is one of the players that can give us that extra bit. He is sharp and in the last 20 minutes he is always dangerous ... we have a lot of hopes for him because he can take us to a higher level."