Zola hails positive atmosphere

Gianfranco Zola insists there is much more to come from his West Ham United team.

The Hammers have been in fine form in recent months, losing just one of their last nine matches in the Premier League and FA Cup - to champions Manchester United - and go into Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie against Middlesbrough brimming with confidence.

With recent results and performances leaving many supporters and observers full of admiration for his side, Zola could be forgiven for resting on his laurels. Instead, the manager has vowed to take his West Ham side to even greater heights over the coming weeks.

"This team hasn't peaked yet because there are players who can do much more. There are things we're doing automatically which is great but we can still improve, especially with confidence. But everything is coming along nicely. We are just at the beginning and we need to establish ourselves before trying to make another step."

While the work done by Zola, first-team coaches Steve Clarke and Kevin Keen and the club's technical and medical staff has clearly had a huge effect on the team's performances, the manager was also quick to praise the players themselves for their positive attitude towards their work.

"I have improved a lot and that's down to the players helping me a lot and the staff have been fantastic to help me progress in the job.

"This is one of the best atmospheres I have ever seen. The players are happy and are very keen for the job. They keep talking to each other about doing their job and getting better. This is one of the best sporting environments I have seen in my career and it's the right way to improve.

"For me it [makes life] easy-peasy. When you have players like that, they do the job for you. I just have to keep encouraging them but conditions-wise it could not be better."

One player who has benefitted greatly from the positive atmosphere flowing through the club is Carlton Cole, whose superb all-round form led to a full England debut in Wednesday's 2-0 friendly defeat in Spain. The striker, who has scored ten goals this season, put in another impressive display in Seville, and Zola believes there is much more to come from the 25-year-old hitman.

"Carlton is certainly one of those players who doesn't know how good he is. It's as simple as that. But because I've seen so many different players up close I can realise what kind of players I have in front of me. He is getting better and better. He is getting little bits. For me he is not near his peak.

"Sometimes when he is holding the ball he reminds me of Mark Hughes. Hughes was fantastic at holding and protecting the ball. He is close to him [his level] but he is also very fast. He needs to improve his finishing a little bit but he's on the way."

While Cole continues to improve individually, Zola also restated his ambition to lead West Ham to greater heights collectively, starting with victory over Boro this weekend. Working closely with CEO Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani, the manager is fully committed to the club's future success both on and off the pitch.

"I am here. I am enjoying myself and my time. My job here is not finished. I always focus on the short term and I want to improve this team and to give something more. I haven't given enough. I have said many times is that my philosophy is not to worry about anything. This club has been fantastic for me and I'll give them everything."