Upson's national pride

Matthew Upson has expressed his pride at being one of West Ham United's Three Lions.

The central defender is in Fabio Capello's squad for Saturday's friendly with Slovakia and next Wednesday's 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, both at Wembley, alongside club-mates Robert Green and Carlton Cole.

Evoking memories of 1966, when Hammers Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters led England to World Cup glory, the 29-year-old said he, Green and Cole were all desperate to do well over the coming week to boost their chances of appearing at next summer's finals in South Africa.

"It's massive, and something West Ham are very proud of. When the country last won the World Cup there was a big West Ham influence so the club has always carried that and it is very positive to have three players in the current squad."

While Upson himself has impressed with his form for both club and country this season - netting his first senior international goal in the 2-1 win in Germany in November - he has also been pleased with the displays of Cole, who made his England debut in the 2-0 friendly defeat in Spain last month.

"He's had a great run ever since Gianfranco Zola took over. He has known how to get the best out of Carlton, and Carlton in turn has put in some great performances. He deserves his call-up and he deserves his opportunity."

Zola's influence on his own career also drew praise from Upson, who has overseen a transformation in West Ham's playing style since arriving at the Boleyn Ground last September. The Hammers have been widely lauded for their attractive brand of passing football, and the 13-times capped defender is enjoying life under the Italian.

At the same time, Upson is also relishing the new lease of life he has been handed by Capello. After more than three years in the international wilderness, the Hammer was brought back into the England fold for the former Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid coach's first game in charge against Switzerland at Wembley 13 months ago. Upson has great respect for his coaches for both club and country.

"There are a lot of similarities in their character and they way they view football. They definitely have a real tactical knowledge. Italian football is more tactical than the hustle and bustle of English football. Both managers have brought tactical awareness to their teams and that will make us better structured teams.

"At the top level that is the only way you can play football. Zola was a flair player and loved passing and moving the ball. Playing with Fabio Capello it is the same thing. If we don't have the ball we have a good shape and are hard to break down."

Concentrating on the coming week, Upson is eager for England to rediscover the form they showed in thrashing Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb in September at the Home of Football.

"A lot of people have said that perhaps we haven't performed as well as we should at the new Wembley, and they've probably got a right to say that. I think it's up to us to understand why we haven't performed and put that right and get some really good team performances and good results there.

"We really need to work to bring that level of performance from our away games back to Wembley. It's such a fantastic arena to play in and I'm sure the team will be giving it everything they've got."