Future in safe hands

When Gianfranco Zola was asked which part of football management carried most appeal to him, the answer was emphatic.

"I like giving the chance for young players to come through and develop," said the new West Ham United manager, well aware that he had joined the club that produced Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking and, most recently, Mark Noble. "That is my dream and it has always been my dream. I have always said in many interviews when I was still a footballer, 'One day maybe when I retire playing football I would like to work with young players and help them to become better'."

Zola, speaking to a round table of journalists at his presentation as manager, continued: "I know that because I was a young player as well and I know how important it has been to be in a club that allowed me to get the games and to improve. I think the philosophy of the club is the same. They want to see young players coming through so we are going to work on that."

Zola is well aware of the talent at his disposal at the Boleyn Ground, not least with a first-team squad full of internationals and, initially, that will inevitably have his focus. That said, promoting the youngsters produced by Tony Carr will also be a priority. "We are going to start with them but obviously we are going to have a close look at the Academy." He is also conscious of the need to get the balance right in favour of youth-team products and quality signings.

His two years with Italy's Under-21s, and the experience gained under mentors like Arrigo Sacchi and Claudio Ranieri, have informed him to have faith in those coming through. "To become a better player, a young talented player has to get experience on the pitch. So you have to trust him. You have to have faith in him. That is something I would love to do in this club as well - give young players the possibility to become better."

Having made his name at Napoli nearly 20 years ago, Zola can find reminders at Upton Park of the club he helped achieve success as a young player - not least the Serie A title in 1990. "Yes, there are similarities but what I like about this club is they want a certain kind of football which is totally in line with my idea about football. It is perfect. We just have to work and make it possible on the pitch."

Even when he had to follow in Diego Maradona's footsteps, he never saw it as a problem, only a challenge. "I didn't have doubts. I was thinking, 'How can I score the goal' or 'How can I make that free-kick?'. Those were my thoughts. I wasn't thinking about the fact I was wearing Maradona's shirt and that he was the best player in the world. There was no 'How can I do that?' or 'It is too difficult'. No, that's not my way.

"When you have a big task in front of you, try to be positive all the time. That is the way that I will face this new challenge. It will be hard, there will be difficulties along the way but I am totally positive and I am already thinking positively about how to do the job. That has always been the philosophy and that I will keep that philosophy."

The Italian understands that he may have to win over some sections of the Hammers support but he knows the rewards for success will be great. "Can you imagine my satisfaction when I am going to get the applause from them?" he said. "It is going to be fantastic and that is what I am thinking about. I like the challenge. It is something that sparks me up very much. I know this is a big risk. I am putting myself on the line."