Zola on homegrown Hammers

Gianfranco Zola is in no doubt that his talented crop of youngsters has the potential to go all the way to the very top.

With Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard all established England internationals, Zola knows the standard the club's academy is capable of producing but sees no reason why the likes of James Tomkins and Jack Collison cannot follow suit. Crucially all are on long-term deals and committed only to helping West Ham United to the next level in the years to come.

Zola said: "We have players with the potential to be as good as the others. Don't forget that when Frank, Joe Cole and Carrick started they were playing for West Ham. They were more or less the same as these guys. They were young players who were very good but nobody knew they would become champions like they are now.

"You could tell they were potentially good players but you don't know. Now is the same situation. The players can potentially be top players but it is down to them to develop. They are just starting. This is just the beginning for them and they will have to put in a lot of work over the next few years and that will determine whether they will be champions or not. It's as simple as that.

"I haven't got a magical ball where I can see into the future but I would like to say that they can achieve as much as they want to. I built up my career always on the belief that it's down to how hard I work to achieve what I want to achieve. If they work, they can be whatever they want. That's what I tell them every day. You get what you work for, it's as simple as that."

The manager's whole philosophy is based around working with young talent and he described it as a "big pleasure" to be realising his managerial dream alongside Steve Clarke at West Ham. "We've been working with these players and we have seen them progressing. We remember the way they were when we started and to see them doing so well makes us very proud and very pleased."

"Having them come through together is the key. I'm relying a lot on that. From my experiences that I've had in football, if you build up the right atmosphere in the team and have the mix of experienced, positive players and young players coming through, it creates an environment where everyone performs at his best.

"That's what's happening here. The results are proving me right so it's something I believe a lot. I think that's the key and the secret in our results this year."