Cup magic inspires Zola

Having won the FA Cup twice as a player, West Ham United manager Gianfranco Zola knows just how much the world's most famous knockout competition means to the club's supporters.

Zola first lifted the famous trophy in 1997. Twelve years on and he is desperate to experience those feelings of achievement and elation all over again. To do so, the Hammers must first overcome Championship side Barnsley in Saturday's third round tie at the Boleyn Ground.

The manager is fully aware of the tournament's long and illustrious history and West Ham United's proud past with three Wembley wins. As such, he is also fully aware of the FA Cup's tradition of giantkillings. With that in mind, Zola is eager to ensure his side do not slip up against the Tykes.

"I think the FA Cup is always a difficult game," he said. "Barnsley came to the semi-finals last season so they know how to cause problems for bigger teams. It is a team we have to respect. I'm not underestimating them at all. We're going to try and play the best we can and we have to if we're going to win."

Although a few changes are likely in his team to account for the rigours of the busy Christmas schedule and Scott Parker's suspension, Zola will be able to call upon England forward Kieron Dyer for the first time in 16 months as he bids to be involved in Sunday afternoon's fourth-round draw..

The 30-year-old has not played a first team match since suffering a broken leg in a Carling Cup second round tie at Bristol Rovers in August 2007. Last month, Dyer successfully came through a behind-closed-doors friendly against a Major League Soccer Select XI and, after shaking off a bout of flu, is ready to return to competitive action.

"Kieron might be involved in the game," explained the manager. "Maybe it might be difficult from the beginning but he might be involved from the bench. Maybe he could get something during the game. We will see.

"I know it's been a big injury for him. He's been working very well in the last few weeks. I know he's frustrated because he's training, training, training and he would like to play but after such a long time out it's difficult to get his condition.

"Before he plays he needs to have his full condition otherwise he can have problems. I think he knows that. He is focused and is very excited to play. We will try to have him back because he's an important player. It's difficult but he has a lot of qualities physical-wise and I've seen in training he is trying very hard so I'm sure he can cope."

Alongside Dyer, teenage defender James Tomkins is set to be in the squad after returning from a successful loan spell at Championship side Derby County, while United States defender Jonathan Spector is pushing hard for a start after completing his recovery from a hip injury. Another hoping to figure is Diego Tristan, who scored his first goal for the club in the 2-1 Premier League win over Stoke City last Sunday.

With Parker suspended and captain Lucas Neill sidelined with a sprained ankle, Zola revealed that both could be given the chance to shine against the Yorkshire club.

"I might try to see some players maybe. It depends on the conditions of the players. We have played two matches in three days so they might have some problems. There might be some changes."

The manager also believes that an FA Cup run will instil yet more confidence in a squad that is already in a positive frame of mind after two Premier League victories in three days over the Christmas period. While the league remains Zola's priority, he is determined to give the club's supporters yet another reason to be cheerful with victory.

"Obviously the league is important but I know from experience how important the FA Cup is for the supporters, for the club and for the players so we want to do well. We're not going to underestimate it at all."

"We care about this competition and we want to please them [the supporters] so we will try to give them satisfactions. The cup, for me, is very important. I've always said that winning my first FA Cup with Chelsea was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It is important for everybody so we'll all be focused on that."

When asked if West Ham can reach the final for the sixth time in the club's history and the second time in four seasons, Zola was in optimistic frame of mind.

"Hopefully. We're going to be there and we're going to try hard. The FA Cup can be strange. You might find yourself in the final. We're confident and we want to be there so we're going to try hard."