Hammers feeling united

Everyone at West Ham United is united behind the club's push for a place in Europe, according to manager Gianfranco Zola.

Zola has been working hard with CEO Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani, as well as his backroom staff and players, to give the club the best possible chance of securing a top-seven Premier League finish and then moving onwards and upwards next season..

Preparations have been made off the pitch to ensure the team goes into its final six matches of a thrilling season 100 per cent ready for the challenge at hand, starting with a potentially tricky trip to fifth-placed Aston Villa on Saturday.

Zola said the club is well-equipped to make a strong push for the UEFA Europa League spot on offer to the team in seventh. "This is a very ambitious club and I believe that me, Gianluca Nani and Scott Duxbury are working well as a team. The relationship between us has been strong all the time and I believe we have good ideas and we're not scared to apply them. With these conditions I believe the club is strong and can go forward."

The manager is convinced the club will be able to attract top players to east London over the coming years. Having already brought his own brand of slick passing football to the Boleyn Ground and with the famed Academy, under the guidance of Tony Carr, known and respected the world over, he believes West Ham have already developed a reputation that will lead players down the Barking Road.

"That's what we're looking for. I believe we are building up a good reputation among the players because we play good football and there is a good atmosphere. It could be an attractive thing for good players to come. I wouldn't be surprised to see a good player come and play for West Ham in the summer. We will see.

"I believe that we have here a good platform. West Ham has got a good platform to build something good for the future. We want to build it slowly with attention. We are not big spenders but we spend the money wisely and work hard to make it happen. That's what we are doing and why we have a good relationship with Gianluca, Scott and the whole staff with regards to this project."

Such is Zola's optimism regarding his long-term vision for the club that he is already planning to strengthen his squad over the summer as the Hammers make a concerted bid to take their seats at European football's top table.

"I'm not going to have more than 20 or a maximum of 22 players. I know I am risking a little bit when I go for a short number like that but I believe I gain something else. I'm not going to have a squad bigger than 20. Maybe I will have three, four or five very good young players in the reserves and ready to come in when they're needed."

Meanwhile, West Ham go to Aston Villa with a number of first-team players out injured. However, while some managers may choose to use the absence of the likes of Valon Behrami, Carlton Cole and Jack Collison as an excuse, Zola is looking at the positives, including the promise being shown by the club's homegrown youngsters.

"Maybe if I had had more players I could have done better but I don't like [to make excuses]. I like to think about what I've got and not to think too much about what I haven't got. I think it's been a good test for me because I've been forced many times to make something out of the situation and it's been very good for my improvement."