Manuel of the moment

Manuel Da Costa has spoken of the warm welcome he has received since joining West Ham United.

In an exclusive interview to be published in the official matchday programme for Sunday's Barclays Premier League visit of Fulham, the 23-year-old central defender thanked manager Gianfranco Zola for giving him a 'second chance' after his career had stalled in Italy.

Da Costa, who helped Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2006/07, endured an unhappy time during spells at ACF Fiorentina and UC Sampdoria.

However, since his arrival at the Boleyn Ground in August, the French-born former Portugal Under-21 international has allowed a smile to return to his face.

"I really like it here," he said. "I'd lost some of my enthusiasm for football in Italy with being on the sidelines a lot. Here Mister Zola has brought me into the group and everybody has welcomed me and I am very happy to be here. I'm getting used to the team, to the staff, to the environment, and I am feeling a lot better."

While Da Costa has enjoyed working with his new colleagues at Chadwell Heath, he has also formed an instant bond with the club's supporters, throwing his shirt into the away end following Monday's Barclays Premier League fixture at Manchester City.

"The fans travel a long way and it's great that they come and support us - I can already see they're there whether we win or lose."

After suffering defeats in his opening two matches in a West Ham shirt, Da Costa is hoping to taste victory for the first time this weekend.

"I am really looking forward to it. I've found it hard to play a full match and I've had a few physical problems as I'd not played for a long time. But I have to keep on working hard and hopefully things will go well for me and the team."

Meanwhile, Da Costa has been included in a Portugal Under-23 squad for a friendly against Poland on 11 October. After being named in the full squad twice before, Da Costa will no doubt see the game as a chance to catch Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz's eye.

To read about Da Costa's views on English football and his reflections on an unhappy spell in Italy, get hold of a copy of Sunday's official matchday programme.

Packed with exclusive features and interviews, including an in-depth chat with Mark Noble, Jonathan Spector on US national team colleagues Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson, and Herita Ilunga's Dream Team, the programme will be available in and around the Boleyn Ground on Sunday, priced at £3.50.