All smiles for Stoke

Gianfranco Zola leads his West Ham United side to Stoke City on Saturday in positive mood.

The week began well with the news that Zola had put pen to paper on a four-year contract and, on Tuesday, first-team coach Steve Clarke joined him by extending his stay for the same period.

Then, a day later, there was the welcome sight of Jack Collison returning to full training with the first team, followed by the encouraging news that striker Carlton Cole could be joining them next week. James Collins and Scott Parker are also working hard but are set to miss out once more this weekend.

Zola said: "We have more or less the same squad as last week. Jack Collison is back in training and is doing very well. I don't think he is going to be available this week but it is nice to have him back. The squad should be the same squad as we had last week."

The trip to the Britannia Stadium sees the Hammers aiming for the victory that could propel them back into seventh spot in the standings. Being in such a lofty position and having the chance of UEFA Europa League qualification with four games to go has left the manager on a high.

"I am a positive person. There were some moments when things have gone very well so I was dreaming of something like that but I wasn't expecting that. I believe we are doing a good job, we are working hard every day and when you work like that it pays off.

"This club has got good potential to be a top club and we are working very hard to make it happen. In football things change very quickly but one thing is for sure is that we are going to be working on how we can improve this team every day."

The manager said he never lost his focus - even during the lean spell at the turn of the year that was definitively ended by the 2-1 home win against Stoke back on 28 December. "It was a tough time that time but it has been very important for me. You need to go through those difficult moments if you want to improve.

"Not for a second I doubted my idea of football. I either succeed with this idea of football or I don't succeed and I do something else. Trust me it has been very important because I got much better in that period."

The positive progress prompted the club to offer new contracts to him and Clarke, and the manager reiterated his happiness at the Boleyn Ground. "It was a very good opportunity for me," he said. "The club looked after me and my staff so it was an easy decision really because this year we just started something that needs to be completed.

"To have a deal with the club for four years will give me more time to plan the things and to work better. I am delighted Steve has signed. He has been a vital part of the work that is being done over here and to have him on my side is good. My staff has been the secret really and in difficult times they have always been on my side and helping me and it has been great teamwork."

That collective spirit will be in evidence this weekend at Stoke, when the manager expects his team to bounce back from the narrow defeat by Chelsea. "We have been playing the same team now for quite a long time and some people will start to get tired so it is understandable. Never mind - it was a good opportunity, we didn't take it and we are going to try this week."

He will not underestimate Stoke despite their newcomer status in the Barclays Premier League. "There was a point in which I looked at them and I saw them struggling a little bit but they have done exceptionally well, especially when they played at home and they won most of their games. I believe Tony Pulis has done a great job so all my respect to him and the team.

"We are prepared for [their style] and it is going to be that kind of game. It is a different way of playing football and that is a good thing about this game. You can play different styles and still get results and make your supporters happy. For us it is a good test. We have been through the situation a few times already and we'll see how we can cope with that."