Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola talked up the seriousness of the survival fight facing West Ham United despite the euphoria of a late equaliser at Everton on Sunday afternoon.

Evoking the memorable words of Bill Shankly, the Hammers manager said: "I wouldn't say the last five games are a matter of life or death but it is very close. We know what football is like. We are determined to fight until the end. We are not going to leave anything in the bag. It is a great encouragement for me and everybody."


The point earned from the 2-2 draw - thanks to equalising goals from Manuel da Costa and Ilan after Everton twice took the lead through Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Yakubu - could well prove pivotal to the prospects of securing Premier League safety after the club's main rivals all slipped up. Zola said the achievement was magnified by the obstacles his team had overcome.

"It was tough out there. We have had everything against us again. We lost Valon Behram in the warm-up and we went one-nil down. It was the only mistake we made in the first half but we never gave up. We came back and in the second half we equalised, we played well.

"The last goal [from Yakubu] could have been a blow for everybody but we reacted and scored an equaliser straight away. It showed that we don't give up for anything. That is the point. Don't forget that Everton have beaten all the best teams at this ground and are a team on top form. What we did was not a simple thing."

Behrami had wanted to travel to Goodison despite a knee knock that ultimately did not stand up to the rigours of the warm-up. With the outstanding Scott Parker suspended for two matches, Zola is hopeful Behrami will be back to face Sunderland next week when Alessandro Diamanti should also return from a groin problem.

"Parker has been very good. A leader, he is one of those who leads by example. We are going to miss him obviously but I am sure with this spirit and everyone else will work harder to make sure his absence is not too big. Valon was doubtful before but he wanted to come here and try but unfortunately he felt it again in the warm-up."

Whoever he fields next time around in the crunch home date with Sunderland, Zola is confident in the attitude he has seen in the camp. "It was a difficult situation but despite that we didn't want to stop fighting. That is what we said to each other yesterday. No matter what we fight until the end.

"We didn't give up and this was a perfect example.I am delighted for my staff. This week, Steve Clarke, Kevin Keen, Antonio Pintus and Kevin Hitchcock have been working hard with the players - to keep them together, to cheer them up and to organise them. They did a brilliant job. I want to share everything with them."

Zola was questioned in some quarters for giving his players a break but he was adamant. "It was very important. It was massive. They had played three tough games in seven days - three defeats. You can imagine what the condition was. It was necessary for them to go and clear their minds and then come back to train hard."

Revealing that the dressing room atmosphere afterwards was "fantastic", Zola said there was a resolve that has him confident in the chances of avoiding relegation. "Sometimes we have made mistakes but we have been together. All the criticism has probably made us stronger. We were together but it has made us stronger.

"We are very much into [what we have to do]. No doubt about it. Getting a draw was very important because it will give morale, strength and confidence for the next match we are going to play on Saturday."