Zola excited for the future

Gianfranco Zola has already turned his thoughts back to the training ground and another busy week ahead of the visit of Fulham this Sunday.

After a 2-2 draw at Newcastle United at the weekend, a home win in front of the Sky cameras next Sunday could move the club into a lofty eighth position and the manager will be pushing his team to match the form shown of late. "The quality the players are producing right now is quite high," said Zola. "If you look at the first 15 minutes of the second half against Newcastle, we were excellent.

"Obviously you can't pretend to be able to play like in those first 15 minutes [at St James' Park] throughout the game - it is impossible. But, I think we can still improve in certain things. We are working hard, we are improving every week as a team and as individuals. We are getting to where we want but we can still do more."

That Zola's team is playing with freedom is emphasised by the form of the "on fire" Carlton Cole and Craig Bellamy. The former has scored in each of his last four games in all competitions while the latter has four goals from his last three away outings. The manager is delighted to see such scoring streaks but, in encouraging his men to express themselves further, is eager to also see a defensive focus.

"Sometimes we get carried away by the enthusiasm of going forward and scoring that sometimes we concede something [at the back]. But trust me this team can play even better. I can tell you we can produce the football like we did in the first 15 minutes of the second half at Newcastle for even longer. I have confidence in my players.

"They were determined to win, they wanted to win. In the end, I had to keep some of them from running forward. It is positive though, it means they want to win. They are determined to improve, they are willing to do everything to get the team to a high level. It is a fantastic thing for a manager to see."

Other positives at the weekend were the successful returns to action for Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson, Valon Behrami and Scott Parker - while the likes of Jonathan Spector, James Tomkins, Julien Faubert, Walter Lopez, Kieron Dyer, Freddie Sears and Diego Tristan are all itching to get involved. Some will play for the reserves at Aston Villa on Tuesday with the aim of facing Fulham.