Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola has four games left to try and propel West Ham United into Europe but he is also looking beyond the summer and to a bright future in east London.

Having signed his new four-year contract mere minutes after the final whistle of Saturday's derby with Chelsea, the manager spoke at length about his vision for the road ahead. While Saturday's opponents are concerned with a Champions League semi-final this week and with reporters clamouring for his views on that contest, Zola was at pains to stress his personal ambitions at the Boleyn Ground.

"We want to be, in a few years time, competing with the top four, the top five. That is the project and we have started this year. It is just the beginning. We have a lot of enthusiasm and we trust what we are doing. We will see what happens.

"One thing is for sure, it is a good thing not only on the pitch but off the pitch. I work very well with Scott Duxbury and Gianluca Nani and we are going to try everything to be successful.

"I like what I am doing so it was easy to sign here for another four years. They have treated me very well and they just look after me and my staff. It was an easy decision."

Zola reiterated his gratitude to the fans for their continued support and suggested the hard work would continue, even once the season concludes on 26 May. The 1-0 defeat by Chelsea could have been different but for chances cleared off the line and a missed penalty. He also acknowledged "it hasn't been the best game" before stressing that "we wanted to win".

With the hope that James Collins, Jack Collison, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole could all yet play an important part before the end of the season, Zola expects further reinforcements in the summer - with the squad deliberately streamlined in January.

"The next stage is we will be trying to improve the squad. We know we have to improve the team so we are going to try. Don't be surprised if there will be a few signings and hopefully when they come they will take the level of the team even higher.

"I will be a better manager next season. It is my first season and I am just starting. I am not presumptous to say I know everything about the game. There are so many things I need to learn and I am very much willing to learn … I am pleased to make mistakes because you get better only through those mistakes."

Stoke City are next up with West Ham travelling to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday knowing that victory could be vital to their chances of returning to the seventh spot that would bring with it a UEFA Europa League place. Fulham occupy that position for now and the Hammers will hope they come unstuck at Chelsea on the same day.

"I don't mind dropping out from the first seven now as long as I can be there on the last game. That is the point. We know it is going to be up and down until the end but for sure we are not going to give up until the end."