'No fear' for Zola

West Ham United will go to Tottenham Hotspur with 'no fear and no problems' and determined to record their first win at White Hart Lane since April 1999, according to manager Gianfranco Zola.

The Hammers will arrive at White Hart Lane on a five-match Premier League unbeaten run and desperate to strengthen their claims for a top-seven finish and a place in next season's UEFA Europa League. A win would move the club nine points ahead of Tottenham with just six games to play.


Zola could welcome back midfielder Radoslav Kovac, who has recovered from a minor thigh injury, as West Ham attempt to end a run of eight matches without a win in the blue and white half of north London. The last success there came in the shape of a 2-1 victory on 24 April 1999.

"It's an important game for us," said Zola. "When we played them in the first match, they were better, but I don't think that the team that played that game is the same team we have now. It's an opportunity for us. It's a big match for the club and for the supporters and we are going to try our best as we always try to do.

"It is a big game and I like this record because it's meant to be broken. We want to break this bad situation because it has been a few years since we won over there. What a great opportunity. We go there with no fears and no problems and will play our best game and see what comes from that."

Another record Zola is eager to improve is that of four wins in 15 away league matches this season, although four points from their last two games away from home is a decent return.

"We know that [winning away games] is the most difficult thing. It is something we are going to be working on. We have two very difficult away matches and we'll try. We have nothing to lose so we'll give them our best shot."

The Hammers arrive at White Hart Lane having conceded just one goal in their previous five league matches. Despite the absence through injury of Valon Behrami, Jack Collison and, at times, Matthew Upson and James Collins, Zola's team have produced a string of strong defensive performances.

Praise has been heaped on the club's defenders, with England Under-20 centre-back James Tomkins winning rave reviews for the calm, assured performances that were capped with a first goal for the Hammers in last weekend's 2-0 win over Sunderland at the Boleyn Ground.

"I think that [the defensive record] has been the turning point for us, since we managed to become more difficult to beat in terms of scoring goals against us. The whole situation for the club has improved. I have to say that the defence has been great. Whoever has played there has done a very good job. Now Tomkins is doing a very good job. When Collins was playing he did a very good job. Everybody is performing and it's good because it's all down to them and they deserve what they are getting."

Tomkins has led a host of young players into the first-team squad in recent months, including Collison, Savio, Junior Stanislas and Freddie Sears, all of whom have impressed the manager. Zola has also been pleased with the way the club's senior professionals have helped the youngsters to develop.

"That's what we said at the beginning of the season when I first came [that we want to give chances to young players]. It was one of our targets and so far it is working very well. I look forward to continuing this. I believe that they are lucky to have a fantastic group of senior players around them. They have players like Luis Boa Morte, Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson and Scott Parker who not only play for themselves but also encourage the youngsters. When you have players like that, it is a piece of cake."

Three of the club's homegrown stars, Mark Noble, Stanislas and Tomkins, signed contracts until the summer of 2013 this week, following Collison, Sears, Parker, Carlton Cole and Dean Ashton in committing their long-term futures to the club. Zola believes all of them have an important part to play over the coming seasons.

"We have worked hard with them for many years. I have worked with them for seven months but before then the youth Academy staff had been working with them for years and now we want to keep them. We are just getting back all the investment in terms of time, patience and knowledge that we put in. Now we want to keep them as long as possible because they represent the future of the club."

Eight Academy graduates have donned the famous claret and blue shirt already this season and, with another batch of promising teenagers following them through the ranks, Zola has insisted he will not be afraid to hand out yet more debuts in the future.

"Why do I need to be brave? If a young player is good why shouldn't he have the opportunity to play? I don't believe that it's right to think that you have to be brave to play a young player. If a young player is talented and has the qualities to compete they will play. I don't think I've got guts. I think I know players and can recognise good players. It's as simple as that. If they are good, I play them, whether they are 19 or 15. As long as they compete, that's fine with me."