Winning start pleases Zola

Gianfranco Zola and his first-team squad will travel to Austria on Monday buoyed by a positive start to their pre-season preparations.

West Ham United were 2-1 winners at Grays Athletic on Sunday afternoon, with most of the available players getting 45 minutes including Danny Gabbidon for his first run-out since a reserve outing in January 2008. Also catching the eye were Julien Faubert, Kieron Dyer, Anthony Edgar and Junior Stanislas along with goalscorers Zavon Hines and Cristian Montano - with the two Academy products leading the line as lone strikers in each half.

"I was very happy today," said Zola, who tried 22 different players in all on a sunny afternoon at the New Rec in south Essex but was without most of his internationals. "Everyone came through which is good because we have only had one week of hard training and this is still very early in the pre-season. I am pleased with how the young players did and they had lots of confidence. It is very encouraging."


While it was a welcome work-out for established names such as Herita Ilunga and Jack Collison, there was also the intriguing sight of two players who are set to play a part in Tony Carr's Under-18 set-up this coming season - namely Republic of Ireland Under-17 midfielder Eoin Wearen and England Under-17 forward Robert Hall, who are still only 16 and 15 respectively. They may feature at Cambridge United in a West Ham United XI next Saturday.

Savio - slightly older at 19 - travelled to Grays but was rested as a precaution. He is expected to figure when the team play in Austria. The first match of the ten-day trip will be at local third-division team SVL Flavia Solva on Wednesday, when the likes of Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Luis Boa Morte and Carlton Cole could also be in contention.

Luis Jimenez will travel after arriving in London on Sunday afternoon, although he was not in time to watch his new team-mates play after sorting out some personal matters back in Chile. Zola was clear about how the man dubbed 'the Wizard' will improve his options. "He will give us something extra especially in the last 30 metres. That is the kind of player we have got."

Valon Behrami and Scott Parker are also expected to travel although only the latter has a chance of playing in any of the four games. After Flavia Solva, the Hammers take on German Cup holders Werder Bremen on Saturday before meeting Turkish team Bursaspor on Wednesday week and then finishing up against ND Mura 05 across the border in Slovenia a day later.

England Under-21 duo James Tomkins and Mark Noble will fly out with Jonathan Spector midway through the camp, having had just a fortnight or so off so far after their summer international exertions.

It remains to be seen if Dean Ashton and Terry Dixon will travel as they are working hard on their fitness after lengthy injury lay-offs. The manager revealed that there may be more attack-minded players on the way with speculation linking the club with a range of players. "We are trying to spot what our weaknesses are," he added stressing that there was plenty of time for new recruits. "Certainly we need to improve up front and that is the majority of the job."