Zola powered by experience

Gianfranco Zola has praised Scott Parker for being named Hammer of the Year but admitted that any number of West Ham United players would have deserved the accolade.

The manager was glowing in his praise for his midfield general, who was man of the match in several of the club's most impressive performances this campaign. "He has been terrific for us," said Zola of the England international who just pipped Robert Green to the coveted award.. "The way he plays on the pitch is so important.

"It was difficult to pick a player of the year because so many deserved it. Matthew Upson was brilliant as was Herita Ilunga. It has been a year where the level of performances has been high from everybody."

When pushed on who he would have chosen if it were up to him, Zola added: "I don't know! I think it has been very close. I think Herita Ilunga and Matthew Upson along with Scott Parker and Valon Behrami as well before he got injured was up there. If it was possible I would have shared it between all of them."

The manager was particularly glowing in praise for the older members of his squad and the way they helped his talented youngsters to develop.

"Experience is vital. This is the project. The idea is to have a team where you have four or five experienced players and put around them talented players so they can grow up and make a team alive and fresh. That's what I want and those experienced players have been really important. They were always out there spreading the right messages. They have been really terrific for me."

Such contributions have rightly fuelled his optimism for the coming campaign, with the manager keen to stress the importance of pre-season in making sure he has a squad that can cope with the demands placed on them.

"I am very much looking forward for next season because I will have the possibility to make a few adjustments in the squad and start with the team from the beginning. I am sure it will make a big difference for us."