Manager on Monday

A big week is expected at Chadwell Heath as West Ham United regroup for the final match of the season and the chance to finish on a high.

A fine first season for Gianfranco Zola and his staff will culminate with the visit of relegation-threatened Middlesbrough on Sunday afternoon. Having seen his men lose out 3-1 at Everton on Saturday, a victory would confirm a likely ninth-placed finish on 51 points, both of which would be an improvement on the previous campaign.

Already though, Zola is aiming higher. He is eager to make the most of his forthcoming first pre-season at the club to ensure his men are able to better last the pace next time around. Europe is "certainly" the target in 2009/10 and there will be no dwelling on what might have been - even if the sending off of James Tomkins at the weekend with his team one-nil up was harsh.

"We are a very young team, the players will have more experience and might be able to improve the team for next season and so I am really pleased," the manager said as he contemplated Saturday's 3-1 loss at Everton. "I am absolutely positive that we will be much better next season."

The manager is expecting to take his time to consider his summer options, hoping to have everyone including Danny Gabbidon and Dean Ashton available when the squad regroups in July. Only Valon Behrami will definitely miss out on the first day back and Zola has plenty to ponder in terms of his squad for next season.

He said: "I have a rough idea but it is too early to say and things might go in one way or another. Even without anybody, I am sure that the team will be better and don't forget that we will have Ashton back and that will be a big thing for us. Plus all the players will be better next season."

There may be difficult decisions ahead but he will not be afraid to make them. "Obviously the club pays me for those moments and I have to take the decision and I will do that with the interest of the club to take the club forward. When the moment comes I will make it.

"It is no problem to make the decision. I am motivated by the fact that I want to make the team and club better and I will take the decisions bearing that in mind. I will be all right, I know it is part of the job."

With the manager, knowing "if we need to buy a player we can" he reiterated that he will look to continue with his philosophy of a smaller squad of 21/22 players backed up by a youthful reserve outfit. There will also not be the need to factor in extra Europa League games, much as that was a problem he had hoped to face.

"We have to make certain considerations now. The aim is still to improve the team. We don't need a bigger squad than we thought." More pressing though is this coming weekend and the need to finish the job started when Zola arrived last September - especially given the strong backing he and his players have received.

"It would be a pity not to end the season with a victory on Sunday and I have told the players. We want to make sure it happens."