Manager on Monday

"It was a project and when I spoke to you first time probably some did not believe it but to see things come together like this is such an unbelievable satisfaction for me, for Steve Clarke, Kevin Keen, Antonio Pintus and Ludo Miklosko - and also the club who have put so much faith in what we are doing."

So said Gianfranco Zola to the press as he reflected further on the weekend win against Sunderland and he will return to work before Saturday's derby date at Tottenham Hotspur with renewed confidence.

The manager claimed the emergence of talent like Junior Stanislas and the spirit in his squad, intentionally honed and toned in January, was a vindication of the club's policy he had been talking about since the day he arrived. Saturday's 2-0 triumph thanks to strikes from Stanislas and James Tomkins has left West Ham United in pole position for seventh and contemplating European endeavours - although seven hard games still await.

"It's working," he said. "Yes, but tell me if this is something I didn't say at the beginning. I said the idea was to create this kind of situation. It's working very well and I am very glad and pleased. It's unbelievable and it's great after the difficulties we have had and this gives us even more confidence for the future."

Zola said English talent would always be a cornerstone - witness the debuts given to Stanislas and Josh Payne in the last month - but the scope is far and wide. "I like to look for young players. We can bring some good ones from abroad but the idea was also to develop the players we have here. So far it is working well and we have to work even harder on this.

"It is fantastic when you see young players coming from the youth team into the first team and they do well, do their jobs and score also. It's great, not just for me and the club but for the atmosphere, for the supporters and that's what we want to do. We need to 'feed it' and that's the job we need to do for the next few years."

There was also special praise for James Tomkins, the 20-year-old England youth international who held off the worthy challenge of James Collins to line up alongside Matthew Upson. Zola believed Tomkins was a "very promising young player" who could prove one of English football's most important prospects in the years to come.

He added: "The tradition at this club is to produce very good players and that's the reason why I believe the club appointed me as they know I like working this way and so they want to carry on doing this. The club has done very well. I'm looking forward to improving in every situation possible.

While youngsters are staking their claim, the manager was hopeful he could have one or two back in contention for the trip to Tottenham - although the concussion suffered by Jonathan Spector could keep him out in the short term. "Hopefully Radoslav Kovac will be ready and hopefully it will be the same for Scott Parker. They are important players for me. If they are back it will make a difference."