Zola committed to the cause

West Ham United have plenty of incentive for Sunday's visit of Fulham to the Boleyn Ground - not least the knowledge that victory would leave them two points off seventh place in the Barclays Premier League.

The in-form club have started 2009 on a high and are bidding for a fifth match unbeaten in all competitions. Not surprisingly, the manager was positive when asked his view of life back in English football.after an eventful first four months in charge at the Boleyn Ground.

"I want this fight and I want to become better," he said. "I was in Sardinia spending my time in 20 degrees of sunshine, playing golf and I could have stayed there. I didn't need the money but I came here because every day I want to become a better person and a better manager."

With things going so well, Zola sees no reason why his team cannot maintain their momentum and achieve a 'double' over their London rivals. Although rightly guarded over his team selection, the manager said the situation regarding Craig Bellamy would not have a negative impact on his preparations. The player is not on strike as reported in some quarters, but has expressed his desire to leave in the wake of interest from elsewhere. The club has rejected all bids for his services.

"I'm handing the situation well with my staff and we are getting to the point where we want to get and on Sunday it is going to be the same. I have a lot of faith in myself and in the players and the staff that I've got and we are going to get through whatever is in front of us. No player is more important than the club."

That united front has been a hallmark of the squad since Zola and Steve Clarke arrived. "We are stronger than this," he said. "I know my players my staff and myself and we're stronger than this. We've had everything against us this year and we are still there. There's nothing which will prevent us from doing what we can do ... the club has done very well and we want to respect the club. The club is above everybody and it's important to stay committed to it.

"I have a great relationship with CEO Scott Duxbury and Gianluca Nani and they have told me the club is fine and I trust them totally. We are committed to building something important."

As well as such unstinting support for him behind the scenes, the manager also has no doubt about the commitment he has within his squad. "When you have such a good professionals you don't worry about it and you know all of the time that you will get the best out of them. I am very proud to be the manager and they won't let me or the club down."

Indeed, the manager knows his squad are collectively responsible for the progress so far - a point borne out for example by his captain Lucas Neill, homegrown Hammers Mark Noble and Jack Collison in midfield and Carlton Cole, who is bidding to score for the fifth game running. "Many of the players are important. We have Scott Parker who is playing out of his skin, Matthew Upson, Robert Green, Valon Behrami all playing fantastically."

Whatever happens on a day to day basis, Zola remains resolute about the long-term project he bought into when he arrived. "It is not only my plan," he explained. "It is the club's plan. The club want to get to a better level. In a few years' time they want to compete at high levels. The way the club choose to do this is to build a club of young, talented players and have experienced good players to lead them. That is why they don't want to sell the best players."